Mangochi Becomes First District to Have Peace CommitteeSep 14, 2016
Esme Botomani, a 32-year old business woman who lives at Mtalimanja in Mangochi Town was once affected by violence that erupted in the aftermath of the 2014 tripartite elections. Dissatisfied with the elections results, people looted property, destroyed infrastructure and fought with each other.
Esme’s phone business was not spared in the violence. One morning she found her branded telephone booth removed and set on fire. All this because people did not pursue peaceful means to resolve their differences.
“I lost the telephone booth. I used to do my business in that booth. To me this was a big loss because people were attracted to my business because of the visibility of that beautiful booth. Today I’m using a simple table which can’t attract customers,” said Esme as she sat and managed her business some few meters from where the Government of Malawi and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) were launching the first ever District Peace Committee (DPC), attended by a cross section of business operators, party leaders, traditional leaders, religious leaders of different faiths, government officials and the youth.
As Esmie followed the proceedings at the launch of the DPC from her business desk, she was reminded of the loss she encountered in 2014. The inauguration of the Mangochi DPC was personal to her as it was befitting for a district that has had a fair share of violent activities ignited by religious intolerance, political differences and land disputes. Esme hopes that for once she can conduct business in a peaceful environment.
“Violent conflict can disrupt development. It disrupts education, businesses and indeed, any development initiative,” said the Chief Secretary for the Government of Malawi, Mr. George Mkondiwa who was the guest of honour at the launch of Mangochi District Peace Committee, held under the theme; DPCs as building blocks for Sustainable Development Goals.
Mr. Mkondiwa commended the people of Mangochi for being the first to embrace the peace initiative, saying it demonstrates that the people of the district have chosen a path to peaceful means of resolving their differences.
The Chief Secretary advised members of the DPC to adhere to the Code of Conduct which they have signed. Among other things, it calls for members to exercise impartiality, professionalism, integrity and independence in order to instill confidence in their community members.
On her part, UNDP Peace and Development Advisor, Rebecca Adda-Donto said UNDP will continue to accompany Malawians in providing the necessary technical support that will enable the advancement of peace to fulfil the aspirations of Malawians to keep Malawi ‘a land of peace’ as stated in the Malawi National Anthem.
She stressed that the launch of the first DPC in Mangochi resonates with Goal 16 which calls for Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
She added that violence comes with a cost. “The cost of violence is very high. Direct cost of violence to the victim, perpetrator and the government,” she said, citing the 2016 Global Peace Index report which shows that violence has costed Malawi US$1,170,282,420 in the last ten years.
One of the youth representative in the DPC, Emmanuel Simbani said he will use his position to ensure that the youth are not used in perpetrating violent activities as was the case in previous conflicts in the districts.
“I will be encouraging the youth to use dialogue to resolve conflicts,” Simbani said.
District Peace Committees (DPCs) are district peacebuilding, conflict prevention and transformation structures of the National Peace Architecture (NPA) supported by UNDP and Government of Malawi through the Office of the President and Cabinet.
Mangochi, Kasungu and Karonga are the first districts in Malawi to pilot District Peace Committees (DPCs) in 2016, as a first step and a test towards learning lessons for the roll-out of the National Peace Architecture structures nationwide.