Police in Malawi used tear gas Friday to stop clashes between demonstrators who were protesting unemployment and the high cost of living and a group of counterdemonstrators.
The demonstrators chanted anti-government songs while carrying placards demanding that President Lazarus Chakwera fulfill his campaign promises, such as creating one million jobs and providing free water and electricity connections.
A group of counterdemonstrators, suspected supporters of Chakwera, later arrived and attacked the protesters. Some demonstrators had their cellphones and other items stolen.
Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Protest leader Bon Kalindo was among those affected by the tear gas.
"It's very sad indeed," he said. "We are not fighting with anyone here. I don't know what the problem is. We notified authorities about our intention to hold the demonstrations."
The protests came two days after Kalindo, an influential comedian and former lawmaker, resigned as youth director of the United Transformation Movement (UTM) party, which forms part of the governing Tonse Alliance.
Kalindo said he resigned because of poor administration by President Chakwera and Vice President Saulos Chilima in properly running the country.
However, officials of the UTM party had earlier warned against the street action.
Sheriff Kaisi, a political science lecturer at Blantyre International University, said protesters were justified in holding the rally.
"Not even a single person would say things are going well unless you are blind on issues," he said. "It is an undeniable fact that commodities have gone up, you know, quite a number of issues these demonstrators have cited are real on the ground. But probably it would be another question to say what should be done, do we need to demonstrate or we sit down and talk?"
Information minister Gospel Kazako told a press conference this week that the government realizes the problems Malawians are facing, and the president will soon address the nation on corrective measures.
Meanwhile, local radio reported that Kalindo and a few demonstrators regrouped Friday afternoon and delivered a petition to the Blantyre City Council giving Chakwera 14 days to respond to their grievances or face a wave of protests.