Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika on Tuesday urged opposition parties to accept the outcome of an election clouded by fraud allegations as he was sworn in for a second term. Thousands of supporters gathered at a sports stadium in Malawi’s commercial capital, Blantyre to watch him take the oath of office, which had been announced just hours earlier.
Mutharika, 78, of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was declared the winner on Monday after an injunction barring the release of the results was lifted. “I want to congratulate other leaders who competed with me in these elections. But they have to accept that there can only be one winner,” Mutharika declared in a short speech. “The elections are over. This is a time to unite and develop this country.”
Mutharika won the ballot with 38.57% of the vote, against former evangelist Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) on 35.41% – a gap of just 159,000 votes. Turnout was 74% of 6.8 million registered voters. The MCP, the main opposition party, had obtained a temporary injunction at the weekend to halt the release of results over alleged vote-rigging, but it was later lifted by the courts.
Mutharika dismissed any doubts over the outcome, saying international observers had deemed the May 21 election “peaceful, free and fair. It is the victory of the rule of law and the rule of democracy. Democracy has won,” he said.
Mutharika was speculated to have died during the campaign after he cancelled a series of appearances. In a swipe at the rumours, he opened his speech saying “I did not die” – triggering loud applause from party supporters.
Chakwera and the MCP have not responded since the results were declared. MCP spokesman Eisenhower Mkaka said on Saturday the party had turned to the courts because of “very glaring irregularities”.
Some documents showed “the same handwriting coming from different polling stations which are miles apart,” he said, adding there was a lot of correction fluid on result sheets. Mutharika campaigned for a second five-year term on his record of improving roads and power infrastructure in the impoverished southeast African country.
In his first term of office, inflation fell from 23% to below 9%, but still just one in nine of the population have access to mains electricity. The DPP also won parliamentary elections held on the same day last week. DPP campaign director Ben Phiri told AFP that the election outcome illustrated that the DPP was the “capable party”.
“People said we would lose these elections and we are written off from the beginning,” he said. A separate presidential inauguration ceremony is planned at the same venue on Friday. Mutharika, a former law professor in the US, came to power in 2014 vowing to tackle corruption after the “Cashgate” scandal a year earlier revealed massive looting from state coffers.
But he has faced corruption allegations himself.
Last November, he was forced to return a $200,000 donation from a businessman facing corruption charges in a $3-million contract to supply food to the Malawi police.
Malawi won independence from colonial rulers in 1964 and was then ruled by Hastings Banda as a one-party state until the first multi-party elections in 1994.
Malawi’s parliament elects opposition MP as first-ever female speaker
Catherine Gotani Hara from the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) gathered 97 votes to defeat her opponent from the ruling party
History has been made in Malawi as lawmakers on Wednesday elected a female member of parliament as speaker for the first time in the country’s history.
Catherine Gotani Hara from the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) gathered 97 votes against 93 of Esther Mcheka Chilenje of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
The Malawian parliament which has 193 seats, was dissolved in March this year, ahead of the fresh elections held on 21st May.
After announcement of the voting results, Eisenhower Mkaka, MCP lawmaker and party spokesperson said; “the victory of Hara as first-ever female speaker of parliament is what every Malawian hoped for. Her election should encourage women that if you invest in girls, they can also become leaders.”
Viwemi Chavula, who is the team leader of the 50-50 campaign, a consortium of civil rights group which campaigns for 50% representation of women in public offices, has described Hara’s election into office as a milestone for Malawi.
“It has been our aim to increase women’s representation in leadership and decision making positions. The election of the first female speaker of parliament is a huge achievement for Malawi,” Chavula said.
Hara has previously held several ministerial positions including that of health and gender under Joyce Banda, Malawi’s first women president.
Morsi: Egyptian authorities accuse UN of trying to “politicise a case of natural death”
The spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had called for an independent investigation into Morsi’s death
Egypt accused the United Nations on Wednesday of seeking to “politicise” the death of the country’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi by calling for an “independent inquiry”.
Foreign ministry spokesman, Ahmed Hafez said he condemned “in the strongest terms” the call by the spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, for an independent investigation into Morsi’s death during a court hearing on Monday.
Hafez said it was a “deliberate attempt to politicise a case of natural death.”
Colville called Tuesday for a probe into whether the conditions Morsi faced during his nearly six years in custody had contributed to his death.
“Any sudden death in custody must be followed by a prompt, impartial, thorough and transparent investigation carried out by an independent body to clarify the cause of death,” he said.
“Concerns have been raised regarding the conditions of Mr. Morsi’s detention, including access to adequate medical care, as well as sufficient access to his lawyers and family,” Colville added.
He said the investigation must “encompass all aspects of the authorities’ treatment of Mr. Morsi to examine whether the conditions of his detention had an impact on his death.”
Morsi was toppled by then army chief, now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in 2013 after a single divisive year in power. He was later charged with an array of offences including espionage.
Since his ouster, authorities have waged an ongoing crackdown on dissent of all kinds that has seen thousands of Brotherhood supporters jailed and hundreds facing death sentences.
A group of British parliamentarians in March 2018 warned Morsi’s detention conditions, particularly inadequate treatment for his diabetes and liver disease, could trigger “premature death”.
Tunisia fishermen are the lifesavers of the Mediterranean
Fishermen from Zarzis have saved the lives of hundreds of migrants in recent years,
The Tunisian trawler radioed in for help as it passed the migrant boat in distress out at sea. But with the packed craft still adrift two days later, captain Chamseddine Bourassine took direct action. Fishermen from Tunisia are spending more and more time pulling in stranded migrants after a sharp decline in humanitarian and European naval patrols along the stretch of water between war-wracked Libya and Italy.
Bourassine, his crew and three other fishing boats ferried the 69 migrants back to shore on May 11, five days after their boat pushed off from Zuwara on the western Libyan coast. “The area where we fish is a crossing point” between Zuwara and the Italian island of Lampedusa, said Badreddine Mecherek, a Tunisian fisherman from Zarzis near the border with Libya.
Fishermen from Zarzis have saved the lives of hundreds of migrants in recent years, and as the number of boats leaving western Libya for Europe spikes with the return of calmer summer seas, they will probably have to save even more. “First we warn the authorities, but in the end, we end up saving them ourselves,” Mecherek grumbled as he tinkered with his rusting sardine boat.
European countries in the northern Mediterranean are trying to stem the number of migrants landing on their shores, and the Tunisian navy with its limited resources only rescues boats inside the country’s territorial waters.
Since May 31, Tunisia itself has barred 75 migrants from coming ashore after they were saved in international waters by a Tunisian-Egyptian tug boat. Contacted multiple times by journalists, Tunisian authorities have refused to comment.
“Everyone has disengaged” from the issue, said Mecherek, adding it was hampering his work. Fishermen who run across migrants on their second day out at sea are at least able to have done a day’s work, he added, “but if we find them on the first night, we have to go back”.
“It’s very complicated to finish the job with people on board.” The complexity of the rescues grows when fishermen find migrants adrift closer to Italy.
When Bourassine and his crew last year tugged a boat towards Lampedusa which was adrift without a motor, they were jailed in Sicily for four weeks for helping the migrants. It took months to recover their boat.
Humanitarian boats and those of the European Union’s “Operation Sophia” anti-piracy force had scooped up most stranded migrants in recent years, but rescue operations dropped in 2019. “Now most often we are the first to arrive… if we aren’t there, the migrants die,” Mecherek said.
On May 10, a Tunisian trawler just barely saved the lives of 16 migrants after they had spent eight hours in the water. Sixty others drowned before the ship arrived.
Survivor Ahmed Sijur said the boat’s appearance at dawn was like that of “an angel”. “I was losing hope myself, but God sent the fishermen to save us,” the 30-year-old from Bangladesh said.
Police of the sea
Mecherek is more worried than proud. “We don’t want to see all these corpses anymore. We want to catch fish, not people,” he said, adding his crew was growing uneasy. “I have 20 seamen on board asking, ‘Who will feed our families?'” he added.
“But local fishermen will never let people die at sea.” For Tunisian Red Crescent official Mongi Slim, the fishermen “are practically the police of the sea”, adding that many migrants say large ships won’t stop to help.
Under pressure to catch their quota during a short annual season, big tuna boats out of Zarzis often call the coast guard instead of stopping themselves to help. “We report the migrants, but we can’t bring them back to shore… We only have a few weeks to fish,” said one crew member. For Chamseddine, the summer months look difficult.
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