September 20, 2002

Third-Term Dispute: Opposition Politician Arrested, Demonstrations announced

An opposition leader has been arrested in Malawi, accused of inciting people to demonstrate against President Bakili Muluzi's alleged bid for a third term. Danga Mughogho, the northern region chairman of the Malawi Forum for Unity and Development, was denied bail on Wednesday, September 18 after his arrest the night before. He had allegedly distributed leaflets that called on Malawians to rise up against renewed efforts to change the constitution to allow Muluzi to run for a third term, the Associated Press reported.

Mughogho's arrest has flown in the face of an appeal by Malawi's four major donors for the government to allow wider consultation before going to parliament with a third-term bill. In a joint statement on Monday, September 15 issued from the capital Lilongwe, the envoys of Germany, Norway, Britain and the European Union said they were aware the bill on presidential term limits was gazetted for debate during the October session of the National Assembly. "We would again strongly urge that such an important constitutional amendment be considered only after a consultation process that encourages the free expression of views by all interested Malawians, without fear of intimidation or retribution and in accordance with democratic principles," the envoys said.

Muluzi, whose second five-year term ends in 2004, has ordered the army and police to suppress any demonstrations against the proposed amendment. Mughogho was the first person arrested since Muluzi's warning.

Meanwhile, the Malawi Human Rights Conseltative Committee (MHCC), and the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) have stood their grounds saying they would carry out country wide mass demonstrations against the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2002, which is to be tabled next month in Parliament. (IRIN / MALAWI INSIDER)

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