Malawi: Civil Society Warns of More Fuel Crisis Protests

15 February 2011

Cape Town — Organisers of demonstrations against Malawi's chronic fuel crisis have vowed to continue their protests despite being stopped by police on Monday, reports the Nyasa Times.

The newspaper said in reports on its website that demonstrations were blocked in the capital, Lilongwe, and in the northern town of Mzuzu, and that leaders were detained by police.

It quoted Undule Mwakasungula, chair of the country's Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), as saying: "In two weeks, we will demonstrate across the country… They will shoot us, kill us but we will not relent."

Mwakasungula and another HRCC leader, Mavuto Bamusi – who were both at the head of what was described as the 'The Big Bicycle March on the fuel crisis' – were among those detained in Lilongwe on Monday.

"We were arrested because police said we were about to stage an illegal demonstration," Bamusi told the Nyasa Times. "The entire city center in Lilongwe and the entire city in Mzuzu have been flooded with armed police."

"We only hope government will understand that our demonstration was about the fuel crisis, nothing more," he added.

Meanwhile, President Bingu wa Mutharika has warned protesters "not to be inspired by events in Egypt," reports the Maravi Post from Blantyre. "People should demonstrate with knowledge and not just because they saw something in Cairo on television," he reportedly said.

Malawi has been facing a critical fuel crisis for more than three weeks. According to the Malawi Voice, the government has been reluctant to tell people the true reasons for the crisis.

President Mutharika, speaking at a Valentine's Dinner Dance at the weekend, said fuel was not coming into the country due to delays in clearing Malawi-bound cargo at the ports of Nacala and Beira in Mozambique and in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Speaking to Capital Radio's Straight Talk, the Minister of Energy, Natural Resources and the Environment, Grain Malunga, however said the major cause of the shortage was that commercial banks were not releasing forex to buy fuel.

According to Malawi Voice, civil society organisations have attacked Mutharika's administration as one that is slowly turning into a police state.

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