News / Africa

18 Dead as Malawi Protests Continue Into Second Day

A protester burns vegetation in a street in Lilongwe, Malawi,  July 20, 2011
A protester burns vegetation in a street in Lilongwe, Malawi, July 20, 2011

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +
Delia Robertson

At least 18 people have died in violent anti-government protests across Malawi Wednesday and Thursday with unconfirmed reports of further casualties. President Bingu wa Mutharika said he is willing to speak to civil society groups and opposition parties about their concerns.

In an address to Malawians broadcast on national radio Thursday, Mutharika condemned the protests, but appealed for calm and said it is time to take part in dialogue with his opponents and find solutions. The president was reacting to countrywide protests that erupted into violence in some areas.

The protests began with organized demonstrations Wednesday, but continued in a random way Thursday, often resulting in looting and other destructive behavior.

The president’s address failed to win favor, with many Malawians venting their anger and frustration on social networking sites on the Internet. Kalako, a Malawian in the capital who uses only one name, says that President Mutharika glossed over important issues.

“He has called for peace, that is very good; he has called for dialogue, that is very good," said Kalako. "But, like I say, the kind of dialogue that we want is not the kind of dialogue he did yesterday in a so-called public lecture, where [he] is talking about things that are not concerning the current concerns. But people are worried about the economy right now, and not about independence, or not. So personally I feel the president has not adequately addressed the needs or the concerns that are being raised by the protestors.”

Independent observers and activists say violence resulted in areas, such as the capital, Lilongwe, because police responded too harshly to peaceful demonstrators. Undule Mwakasungure, chairman of Malawi's Human Rights Consultative Committee, and one of the organizers of Wednesday’s protest, says that police acted aggressively against demonstrators.

“The unprofessional conduct of the police; where the police started to push people out of the central [assembly] points while people were still waiting to hear from civil society leaders on what would be the next move, so in that process people became violent, and the police also started  throwing tear gas,” said Mwakasungure.

Mwakasungure said President Mutharika's government has been passing laws that curtail democratic rights, that stifle dissent and free speech, and that this has resulted in anger building up over a lengthy period.

“The country is going through hardships in terms of the economy, but also we are seeing so many challenges in terms of our promotion of our democratic principles. We have seen the government passing undemocratic bills, the government suppressing the freedom of the press, the government threatening human rights defenders, the government suppressing the voice of Malawians,” said Mwakasungure.

In addition, six years of economic growth has been slowed by the global recession, causing fuel and foreign exchange shortages that have added to frustration and anger among Malawians.

Donor countries also have reduced funding over governance issues and in the case of Britain, a serious diplomatic row. This will deeply affect the ability of the government to provide essential social services because 40 percent of the overall budget is donor funded.

The army has been deployed in parts of Lilongwe and police are out in full force, patrolling, manning roadblocks, and clearing barricades and debris from the streets.  

Calls to the government spokesperson, the president’s office and other government departments for this story were not answered.



You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid