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Wednesday, 16 May, 2001, 11:58 GMT 12:58 UK
Church ultimatum to Malawi president
President Bakili Muluzi
President Muluzi's position on a third term is unclear
By Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre

Malawi's second largest church, the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian or CCAP, has asked President Bakili Muluzi to come out in the open on whether he will or will not stand for an unconstitutional third term of office.

Last month the CCAP issued a pastoral letter cautioning the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) against moves to change the constitution to allow Mr. Muluzi to stand again when his second term comes up in 2004.

Reacting to the pastoral letter, Information Minister Clement Stambuli said it was premature to discuss the issue of the third term because the ruling party politiburo or the cabinet are yet to discuss it.

But the General Synod of the CCAP - the church's highest authority - says that is not good enough.

In a letter to the president and Mr Stambuli the church says the debate could have been curtailed had the president himself came out clean on the issue.

The church says: "Our humble request is that you, Mr President, simply declare your decision not to seek a third term and we believe this matter will be put to rest."

'Democratic values'

The church says its opposition to Mr Muluzi's third term bid is not a judgment on his effectiveness as president. It says the reason for its opposition to the third term is to ensure that democratic values that Malawians sought in 1994 are upheld.

But despite the general opposition to the third term issue, UDF leaders have stepped up the unofficial campaign for the bid. Special songs beseaching Mr Muluzi to stay put have been composed.

Mr Muluzi himself, although he has not openly made his stand clear on the issue, has never cautioned his cadres, heightening speculation that this is a calculated move to make it seem as if it has come from the grassroots.

However, the recent capitulation of his Zambian counterpart Frederick Chiluba on the third term issue and Mozambican President Joachim Chissano's announcement that he would not seek another term could leave Mr Muluzi isolated under pressure to discard the third term idea.

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See also:

01 Nov 00 | Africa
Malawi president sacks government
06 Nov 00 | Africa
Heads roll in Malawi cabinet
20 Feb 01 | Africa
Malawi tycoon leaves ruling party
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Malawi
19 Feb 01 | Africa
Malawi considers Banda reburial
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