Council for Non-Governmental Organisation of Malawi (CONGOMA) has urged government to opt for a dialogue mechanism to ensure that there is continued engagement between government and the citizens.
Speaking in a multi-stakeholders engagement forum on civic space meeting on Tuesday in Lilongwe National Advocacy Platform (NAP) chairman, Benedict Kondowe, said that they have demonstrated many times on issues that are of the most concern to Malawians and they have petitioned government on several issues, and the experience has shown that in many instances the issues will end when the demonstration ends or when the petition has been submitted to the relevant offices.
Kondowe mentioned that dialogue is the only way forward to harness interaction between the citizens and government.
He further said that the complementary effort does not necessarily mean that demonstration or the petition will come to an end, but rather there is a need to have an avenue of open discussion between government and the citizens.
He said, “Even if it means Malawians are demonstrating we should let it be, but we need to look for a platform that will take forward the grievances that Malawians have raised by the demonstration.”
“In the same where the petition has been submitted to the relevant entity, we need to have a platform that allows you to deliberately, openly and respectfully for the issues that have been raised. What we are saying is that the dialogue mechanism is a complementary process to all other legal and lawful mechanism that has been provided under different laws or studies.”
Kondowe: The dialogue mechanism is the way forward
Kondowe also touched on recent developments which highlight the fact that there is a need to guard against any possibility of shrinking the civic space even from the previous regime as well as the current regime.
“We have witnessed instances where journalists have have harassed even under the current regime and there have been incidents where civil society critics have been questioned for simply raising the issue against the current leadership.”
Kondowe lamented that if the citizens do not have the space to engage the government then what remains is for them to use any other avenue that allows them to express their grievances despite the fact that these may not be in tune with what government is expecting.
He added that Tonse Alliance has not been in government for a long time, but it is evident that the response towards engaging is lacking as Malawians have been filling petitions.
On her part presidential advisor on Non-Govermental Organizations, Martha Kwataine, said it is an important engagement because the civil societies actors have presented a mechanism which they developed and is the best way for them as actors engaging the government.
She added that it is a good development as it is originating from the civil societies rather than from the government.
She said, “We believe they know what is right because it’s coming from them, evidence they have looked and what they been done before in protests and petitions.”
“What we yield from where we sit is the realisation that there is need for dialogue, and we commend them for coming up with that.”
Kwataine further added that the government is broad with many items on the agenda and they have always encouraged civil society actors to use various levels of engagement because some of the issues raised belong to councils, ministries and others would be multi- sectoral in nature.
Kwataine: It is a good development
She also said whenever the petitions are submitted the government will not rush because there is a process saying when people are demonstrating the petition goes to District Commissioner and then thereafter it goes to Office of the President and Cabinet from where it is sent to the respective line ministry.
Kwataine said, “That’s why we welcome this government and civil society dialogue because it will actually cut the process to shorten the time when the respective line ministry has to respond to it.”
She added that some Civil Society Organisations actors have not been entirely square as there have also been cases of fraud, corruption and some donors have complained. Kwataine appealed to every sector to clear its rubbles, including civil society actors.
By Dean Chisambo