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US Agency Puts Aid to Malawi 'On Hold'

Malawi police patrol on a street of Lilongwe on July 20, 2011
Malawi police patrol on a street of Lilongwe on July 20, 2011

The United States has put a $350 million aid package to Malawi on hold, following deadly clashes between police and protesters in the southern African country.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. government agency that assists developing countries, said Tuesday that it will review its partnership with Malawi.

The agency has expressed concern about the government's use of force and restrictions on media reporting on the demonstrations. It said the developments call into question Malawi's commitment to good governance.

At least 18 people were killed last Wednesday and Thursday as police battled street protesters in three Malawian cities.

Authorities said at least 100 people appeared in Malawi courts on Tuesday to face charges related to the demonstrations.

Police spokesman John Namalenga said the suspects face various charges, including arson, looting, theft and possession of stolen property.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation is designed to reward developing countries that protect human rights and practice the rule of law.

The Malawian demonstrators were protesting fuel shortages, rising prices and what they say are eroding civil liberties.

President Bingu wa Mutharika characterized the demonstrations as an attempt to overthrow his government and has vowed to hunt down the leaders of the protests. He named the head of the opposition and Malawi's vice president as suspected organizers.

Britain recently cut economic aid to its former colony in the wake of a diplomatic disagreement with the Malawian government.

The dispute began after Mutharika deported Britain's envoy for describing the president in a leaked cable as "autocratic and intolerant."

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.