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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid