Friday, 21 January 2011

Politics in Malawi

It is always difficult to understand the politics of another country without spending a lot of time learning about not only what is happening but also the context and the history behind it. From the outside, unless one is an expert, it is only possible to follow what is happening. 

Not too long ago, the president of Malawi, President Bingu wa Mutharika, fired his vice-president. The reasoning was unclear but the move seems to have been largely based on personal issues, rather than any other consideration. 

He then got into an ongoing fight with the church in Malawi (a fairly powerful body in the country). There is now (worrying) talk of the state reviewing churches and their teachings before allowing them to operate in the country. He has also said that he doesn't understand Malawians and claimed that they are ungrateful. 

In terms of law and order, Mutharika earlier this week ordered police officers to shoot down criminals caught in the act (shoot to kill orders). He is also trying to table legislation to bring back local ("kangaroo") courts in the country, courts that have previously (allegedly) be (ab)used to silence local opposition. 

All of this takes place against the background of long-delayed local government elections. Local government is important, particularly in a poor country with plenty of underserved areas. The term of the previous local government councillors came to an end in 2005.  After a lot of delaying, local government elections are now scheduled for 20th of April 2011. However, this week, when candidates went to present their nomination papers, they found the Malawi Election Commission (MEC) still closed. The MEC has been closed for nearly 2 months after the president suspended the entire staff over money that could not be accounted for. 

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