BLANTYRE--Malawi’s failure to hold local government elections is stifling democracy, says Undule Mwakasungula, Executive Director of Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR).
He said councillors, who lead the way in development initiatives and service provision, are missing in the decentralization equation, which seeks to transfer powers to the people.
“One big challenge that has rocked our decentralization efforts is the failure to hold local government elections since 2005. As a result, there have been no democratically elected officials at the local level to take concerns from communities to the Council and vice versa.
“This challenge has trickled down to district level since districts have lacked democratically elected people who can make decisions on behalf of the people,” said Mwakasungula during the official opening of area development committee training in Mchinji district Monday.
So who has been making those decisions?
The offices of the District Commissioner or other makeshift structures have been making the decisions.
Mwakasungula said the situation raises questions whether decisions made by such structures take into consideration the needs and wishes of communities considering that they don’t live with the communities as councilors do.
He called upon the government to demonstrate its political will to make decentralization work in Malawi by holding tripartite elections in 2014.
Mwakasungula also spoke against chiefs who unliterary put in place and preside over Area Development Committees (ADC) and Village Development Committees (ADC) meetings saying doing so doesn’t allow for people’s participation in decision making.
He observed that in some areas decentralization has created conflict among stakeholders such as chiefs, legislators, ADCs and office of the district commissioner.
Mwakasungula, therefore, said training was important, claiming it would help participants understand their respective roles.
“It is our hope as CHRR that this workshop will assist you to better perform as you take a leading role in spearheading development in your respective areas.
“CHRR, as a Human Rights NGO, is particularly interested in ensuring that our democracy continues to grow and mature and we cannot meaningfully pursue this cause if we do not pay particular attention to local governance,” said Mwakasungula, noting that local governance takes democracy to the people.
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