Kenya’s former chief justice flew into the Maldives Sunday for his first visit as a special envoy of the Commonwealth amid an intensifying government crackdown on dissent.
Dr Willy Mutunga attended a ceremony to mark the Maldives’ independence upon his arrival on Sunday night. He is scheduled to meet with President Abdulla Yameen on his five-day visit.
He was appointed as envoy in June at a government request made in an apparent bid to stave off Commonwealth pressure over the jailing of opposition leaders and authoritarian reversals.
Ali Zahir, a member of the Maldives United Opposition, a coalition of opposition parties and former government officials, said he was skeptical of progress.
“We welcome international efforts to resolve the political crisis in the Maldives. But we note that the government’s reluctance to compromise, to create a conducive environment for all-party talks, have resulted in the failure of previous UN-sponsored efforts,” he said.
The UN official heading the effort, Tamrat Samuel, had called on all political actors “to show maximum flexibility and commitment to compromise” in July. His second visit ended with no meaningful sign of progress.
The MUO, which wants to remove Yameen from office, has escalated its street activities in recent weeks. In retaliation, its spokesman MP Ahmed Mahloof was jailed and several of its leaders are under investigation on a variety of charges.
The foreign ministry was not responding to calls for comment.
Mutunga’s mandate is to “consult with all relevant stakeholders to encourage the strengthening of a pluralist, multi-party democracy, steps towards credible and inclusive presidential elections in 2018 and the advancement of reforms to give full effect to the separation of powers,” according to the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth has described Mutunga as a reformist and an academic with “an expansive career in the areas of constitutional reform, mediation and coalition building.”
The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group is scheduled to review the Maldives’ progress on a six-point reform agenda in September. The demands include the release of jailed opposition leaders including former President Mohamed Nasheed, who has now been granted asylum in the United Kingdom.
The supreme court has thrown out an appeal filed over his terror conviction.
Yameen is also facing pressure from other international partners. The United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom have called on the president to “return to democracy” in a strongly-worded statement Sunday.