Unknown people on Sunday night removed a UTM Party billboard showing Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima’s face and campaign message in Karonga, raising concerns of political violence ahead of the May 21 elections.
In an interview, UTM party regional treasurer Lusubilo Kamwambi expressed concern over the development, saying the removal of the billboard has potential to incite political violence in a district that earned the name Benghazi in 2014 elections.
Kamwambi said as a party, they are yet to meet relevant authorities and map the way forward on how best they can handle the situation.
“Yes I can confirm that there are some unknown people who have removed our party’s billboard at night and the motive behind this remains a mystery to us.
“However, we are meeting later on the day to plan for our next course of action so that we report to relevant authorities as we fear for escalation of political violence ahead of the next month’s tripartite elections,” Lusubilo said.
Karonga District Peace Committee (DPC) secretary Aaron Mwenilupembe has also added his voice by condemning the unbecoming behavior, saying such conducts have no room in a democracy.
“We are disappointed with this barbaric behavior of these uncivilized people who have removed the campaign message belonging to UTM party. We call upon the police to investigate the matter and bring to book all perpetrators.
“We also urge all UTM party supporters and all parties to remain calm and practice civilized politics to avoid political violence during campaign as our aim is to help the Malawi Electoral Commission to conduct peaceful, free, fair and credible elections,” Mwenilupembe said.
Asked what his office is doing to make sure that such tendency should not continue, Karonga District Commissioner Emmanuel Bulukutu who by default is the district’s elections coordinator said much as he has not received any official complaint, he is equally concerned as this tension might lead to political violence.
“I have not received any complaint from either the advertising agency that mounted the billboard in question or from the UTM party. However, our aim as an office is to conduct peaceful campaign if the May 21 tripartite elections are to be free and fair and acceptable to all political parties,” Bulukutu said.
On her part, Karonga Police station officer Joyce Mphepo said her hands are tied as they are yet to get an official complaint from the affected parties as such they cannot start investigations.
“As police we are yet to get an official complaint. Therefore, we cannot say anything up until someone comes to complain to us. There and then we can hunt for perpetrators and open a file for case for malicious damage if we catch them,” Mphepo said.
Ironically, the same billboard has also the face of President Peter Mutharika who is also the torch bearer of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Arthur Peter Mutharika during the May 21 tripartite Polls with a message ‘Creating jobs for the youths through Community Colleges’.