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Cablegate: Malawi: Civil Society Wants Stronger Stand On

VZCZCXRO3926
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHLG #0254/01 1231016
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 021016Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY LILONGWE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5225
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LILONGWE 000254

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR AF/S - S. HILL, E. PELLETREAU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ZI MI
SUBJECT: MALAWI: CIVIL SOCIETY WANTS STRONGER STAND ON
ZIMBABWE

REF: LILONGWE 234

1. (SBU) Summary: The government of Malawi has been
relatively quiet on Zimbabwe since it released an April 19
statement calling for the release of election results. While
low-level Ministry of Foreign Affairs contacts continue to
suggest that Malawi is quietly working through SADC to
resolve the situation, publicly relations between the two
nations remain normal. Opposition political parties, most
notably former president Muluzi, have become more vocal in
their call for an end to the delay. Muluzi has warned the
Malawi Electoral Commission to avoid a duplication of the
Zimbabwe scenario in 2009. Civil society leaders also
continue to speak out and call for stronger GOM condemnation
of the violence and a stand against a recount without release
of the initial results. End Summary.

Government of Malawi Returns to Silence
---------------------------------------

2. (U) Since releasing a statement on April 19 calling for
election results to be released (reftel), the government of
Malawi has not added any further public pressure for a
resolution. Deputy Minister of Information John Bande told
the press that the government was being prudently cautious in
taking a stand on Zimbabwe and would let diplomatic
principles guide the GOM's interactions. Pro-government
Zimbabwean newspapers quoted Dr. Benson Tembo, Malawi's
Ambassador to Zimbabwe, at the Zimbabwe International Trade
Fair saying relations between the two countries remain
excellent and that Malawi would remain actively involved in
the SADC-supported dialogue between the political parties in
Zimbabwe. Tembo reiterated that Malawi favored a policy of
non-interference and hoped that Zimbabwe would solve its own
problems.

3. (SBU) Contacts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs continue
to contend that Malawi is actually quietly pressing for a
quick release of the election results. In a conversation
earlier this week, the Foreign Minister told the Ambassador
that Malawi continues to support President Mbeki's efforts,
citing the results of the parliamentary seats recount as a
vindication of Mbeki's approach. She hoped that the
"verification" of the Presidential votes would have a similar
outcome, or at least that it would enable Zimbabwe to move
ahead to the next step, that of a second round. She seemed
irritated at calls for more vigorous SADC action, saying that
SADC had entrusted Mbeki with the task and he should be
allowed to proceed. The Ambassador noted the reports of the
campaign of intimidation and violence now under way in
Zimbabwe; the Minister seemed unaware or unwilling to
acknowledge it, though she was intensely interested. Lower
level MFA contacts confided that they applauded the refusal
of SADC countries to allow the Chinese ship to dock and
unload weapons bound for Zimbabwe and they felt the delay of
Zimbabwean election results had now reached ridiculousness.

Opposition Political Parties More Vocal
---------------------------------------

4. (U) On April 23, Kamuzu Chibambo, president of People's
Transformation Party (PETRA), a small Malawian opposition
party, publicly called the situation in Zimbabwe a state of
emergency and bemoaned the lack of action by SADC now that
the situation in Zimbabwe had become violent. Chibambo
continued that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) was
under siege and that the High Court of Zimbabwe has been
intimidated into inaction. He further stated that if SADC
backs down from Mugabe's challenge then it will give him free
reign to decide the outcome of the election.

5. (U) During the United Democratic Front (UDF) convention on
April 24, former president Bakili Muluzi condemned the
actions of the ZEC and called for the immediate release of
election results in Zimbabwe. Muluzi warned the Malawi
Electoral Commission from duplicating the scenario and called
for free and fair elections in Malawi in 2009. Muluzi also
encouraged greater international community help to solve the
Zimbabwe crisis.

Civil Society Critical of GOM's Soft Stand
------------------------------------------

6. (U) Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR)
Executive Director Undule Mwakasungula has led the civil
society outcry for the release of the election results and a
firmer GOM stance on Zimbabwe. Mwakasungula, along with
Malawi Human Rights Resource Center (MHRCC) Executive
Director Desmond Kaunda, represented Malawi in Dar-es-Salaam

LILONGWE 00000254 002 OF 002


at the April 21 African Emergency Summit on Zimbabwe. Upon
his return, Mwakasungula called for an African-led response
to Zimbabwe and expressed disappointment over the GOM's lack
of condemnation of the violence, intimidation, and harassment
by ZANU-PF. He also asked the GOM to take a stand on the
vote recount ordered by President Mugabe.

7. (SBU) Kaunda, commenting on the outcomes of the Dar
conference, said any results from a recount should not be
recognized and that state violence must be condemned. Kaunda
also said that SADC mediation had failed and that the a new
leader should be tasked with continuing the mediation.
Kaunda said conference delegates recommended that the MDC
should stop demanding the release of results and instead act
as a government in waiting.

Zimbabwe Issue an Eye-Opener For Malawi
---------------------------------------

8. (SBU) With elections in Malawi only a year away, parties
with an interest in those elections, especially in unseating
the current government, have vocally objected to the Zimbabwe
crisis and asked for increased GOM action. Mwakasungula has
been one of the most outspoken critics of the Mutharika
government's refusal to compromise with opposition and the
lack of constitutionally-mandated local government elections.
His outcries on Zimbabwe, much like Muluzi's more direct
comments, are also meant as a warning to the people of Malawi
regarding 2009. Malawian media, for its part maintains
nearly daily press coverage of events in Zimbabwe but usually
runs Reuters or BBC stories without adding additional
commentary. While Malawian civil society continues to
condemn violence in Zimbabwe, comments coming from the
Dar-es-Salaam conference suggest there will be little stomach
for an outside military solution even if the situation
continues to deteriorate.

CLOSING THE INFORMATION GAP
---------------------------

9. (SBU) Our public affairs office is, as of May 1, producing
a daily press compilation on Zimbabwe, which we intend to
share with the Foreign Minister and other senior officials,
as local press coverage of events in Zimbabwe is limited and
often pulls its punches. We believe Malawi will follow the
lead of other SADC countries, particularly South Africa, on
Zimbabwe, but providing more information to senior officials
will enable them to form their own opinions rather than
relying on spotty local media or what the Zimbabwe High
Commission tells them.
EASTHAM

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