News / Africa

    Malawi Government Faulted Over Arrests of Coup Suspects

    FILE - Malawi's President Peter Mutharika. Since Sunday, Malawi police have rounded up three officials of the main opposition Malawi Congress Party.
    FILE - Malawi's President Peter Mutharika. Since Sunday, Malawi police have rounded up three officials of the main opposition Malawi Congress Party.
    Lameck Masina

    The recent arrest in Malawi of three opposition politicians accused of planning to unseat President Peter Mutharika is dissent from various sections of the society. Since Sunday, Malawi police have rounded up three officials of the main opposition Malawi Congress Party, or MCP, for allegedly plotting a coup through a WhatsApp conversation. A fourth suspect, who police say is outside the country, has yet to be arrested. Rights groups think the arrests are politically motivated.

    Malawi has no technology to do surveillance on WhatsApp and other social media.

    However, the police say they have arrested MCP executive Ulemu Msungama, spokesperson Jessie Kabwila and the party’s legal adviser Peter Chakwantha, after they received a tip about a WhatsApp chat discussing how to unseat Mutharika.

    “We got information that there is that information on WhatsApp from our reliable sources. There are so many well-wishers who wouldn’t want to see Malawians in the future to be running up and down because of something that has been left out without being checked,” said Lexten Kachama, the Malawi Police Inspector General.

    The police charged the suspects with treason. They are currently on bail awaiting formal charges.

    Political analyst Vincent Kondowe said that move is questionable.

    “It’s only the High Court that can give bail to cases of treason.  So, that itself confirms that these are only politically motivated arrests and they only serve political expediency and that there is no substance in them after all,” said Kondowe.

    One of the WhatsApp conversations seen by VOA says that President Peter Mutharika can be taken down the same way former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was removed from power. 

    Generally, conversations centered on ways to address social and economic problems Malawi currently faces.

    Kondowe said the suspects were only exercising their constitutional freedom of expression.

    “If you look at substantive issues on that particular conversation, they border on freedom of expression that people are reacting and evaluating their government which they elected on trust.  So the conversation in itself does not constitute treason at all,” he said.

    FILE - Malawian subsistence farmers Simon Sikazwe (L) and Cecelia Kazibuta (R) stand beside communal maize fields in Dowa. Food shortages were allegedly among the subjects discussed.
    FILE - Malawian subsistence farmers Simon Sikazwe (L) and Cecelia Kazibuta (R) stand beside communal maize fields in Dowa. Food shortages were allegedly among the subjects discussed.

    'Clearly doctored'

    One of the suspects, Jessie Kabwila, a parliamentarian, told local radio that she feels some of the WhatsApp messages were altered.

    “I am not saying I am not part of it. I can recognize some of the words [I had written] but some of them really sound doctored. WhatsApp messages flow. [But here] the data is funny and some of the places that were supposed to be a name were clearly doctored,” said Kabwila.

    Rafik Hajat of the Institute for Policy Interaction, a think tank, said what the suspects were writing about is not unfamiliar to Malawians.

    “What this group is discussing is the currently pitiful situation Malawi is in --  the shortage of food, three million people starving; our currency the Malawi Kwacha plummeting; and basically it is a whole litany of trials and tribulations which the government seems to have no clue how to resolve,” said Hajat.

    Presidential spokesperson Gerald Viola told VOA that although treason is a serious matter, President Mutharika does not take the conversations seriously.

    “No no no no, the president is not moved because he knows that in Malawi the person is given the position of the president through a vote, so he is not intimidated. He is just probably laughing at the matters that were discussed,” said Viola.

    He said the government is awaiting results of a full investigation.

    This is the second time within a month for officials of the MCP to be implicated in an attempt to topple the government.

    Early this month, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party said it had intelligence information that MCP with assistance from the international community was plotting to unseat president Mutharika by June this year. MCP officials denied those allegations.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Mulls Tough Measures for ‘Misbehaving’ Chinese Tourists

    Move comes after footage surfaced online of Chinese travelers harassing a banana hawker in Da Nang

    The Complicated Math of AIDS

    A lot, and then some: the huge - and complicated - cost of the AIDS epidemic

    Pakistan Social Media Star's Honor Killing Fuels Debate

    Qandeel Baloch's murder puts spotlight on deadly tradition and other mistreatment of women

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Sydo Solijala
    February 28, 2016 11:04 PM
    Government of Malawi under DPP is just trying to divert people's attention to real issues affecting the country. Infact DPP had failed Malawians and opposition MCP is a big threat and last hope for the people of Malawi

    by: Kenneth K Kabwila
    February 26, 2016 12:11 PM
    Threats keep coming but we won't stop fighting for the people

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    X
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.
    Video

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.
    Video

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora