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Malawi opposition gives government ultimatum

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Malawi’s opposition parties and non–governmental organisations have given the government of President Bingu Wa Mutharika an ultimatum to bring the crisis bedevilling the country to an end or face fierce demonstrations that could cripple the Southern African country.

This comes barely a month after the country experienced countrywide violent demonstrations which left over 20 Malawians dead and property worth thousands of dollars damaged during clashes between demonstrators and state security agents.
Last Friday, head of the opposition parties John Tembo and leaders of non-governmental organisations met at Cross Roads Hotel in Lilongwe where they discussed issues to be addressed by Mutharika’s government before August 17.

Sources who attended the meeting told private radio stations in Malawi the groups cited alleged violation of human rights, curtailment of the freedom of expression and the need to address concerns of the poor as some of the issues that needed government’s urgent attention.

Malawi — one of the poorest countries on the continent — started experiencing a fuel crisis and shortage of foreign currency last month after President Mutharika expelled Britain’s envoy to Lilongwe, Cochraine Dyet, over alleged offensive diplomatic cable leakages.

Mutharika has presided over six years of high-paced but aid-funded growth, although the sheen had come off this year as he had become embroiled in a diplomatic row with Britain — Malawi’s biggest donor — over a leaked embassy cable that described him as “autocratic and intolerant of criticism”.

In response, Britain expelled Malawi’s representative in London, Flossie Gomile Chidyaonga, and suspended aid worth $550 million over the next four years.

The freeze has left a yawning hole in the budget of a country that has relied on handouts for 40% of its revenue, and intensified a foreign currency shortage that is threatening the local currency kwacha’s peg at 150 to the dollar.

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