STOP AWARDING DICTATORS, REVOKE THE HUNGER PROJECT AWARD TO PRESIDENT BINGU WA MUTHARIKA
To: Mary Ellen McNish, CEO of The Hunger Project 5 Union Square West, New York, NY Preamble (Background): Malawi suffered a devastating famine in 2004. A farm input subsidy programme started in 2005 has been credited with greatly improving the nation’s food security and preventing a similar catastrophe. Following this programme’s success, President Bingu wa Mutharika claimed food security as the greatest triumph of his administration. As chairperson of the African Union in 2010, Mutharika then spearheaded the African Food Basket Initiative. For these initiatives in combating hunger, American NGO The Hunger Project has decided to award Mutharika the 2011 Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger. But Mutharika’s achievements in food security have been greatly offset by misguided economic policies that have only worsened the impoverished state of Malawi, where 40 per cent of people live below the poverty line. Coupled with a blatant disregard for the rule of law and democratic principles, Mutharika’s presidency has been nothing short of disastrous for the majority of Malawians. While food security may have been improved by the increase in maize production under his reign, general poverty levels are worse than ever. Mutharika’s government has even recently increased taxes on basic foodstuffs such as milk and meat, undermining his supposed stance as a champion in the fight against world hunger. Malawi is further suffering under the dual burden of shortages of petrol and foreign exchange, problems that have arisen under Mutharika’s term only and which the government has chronically failed to address. In the face of all these problems, the administration has attempted to silence critics by pushing through repressive laws, banning public demonstrations and even using outright intimidation tactics that are a clear violation of human rights. On July 20, thousands of Malawians nonetheless took to the streets in peaceful protestation of what is largely viewed as their country’s regression to a dictatorship. The government’s response to this public affirmation of democratic rights was violent. Police used excessive force, leading to the deaths of 18 people. This obvious example of the government’s wanton disregard for the basic rights of ordinary Malawians has earned Mutharika’s government condemnation from international groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Petition: We, the undersigned, call on Mary Ellen McNish, CEO of The Hunger Project, to revoke the honouring of Malawi’s president Bingu wa Mutharika as a laureate in the 2011 Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger. We make this request based on two facts: First, that Mutharika is a leader who has blatantly violated the democratic and human rights of the Malawian people; Second, his half-hearted efforts in ending hunger are little more than posturing, and his leadership is not one that should be held as an example for the world.