Malawi: Anti-Govt Protests Erupt in Clashes

Thousands of Malawians took to the streets to protest against the government (file photo).
20 July 2011

Riot police beat up and arrested about 40 leaders of anti-government protests in Malawi's capital, Lilongwe, after protesters defied a court injunction stopping the demonstrations, Malawi news media reported on Wednesday.

And the BBC reported police spokeswoman Norah Chimwala as saying that one person had died in unrest in Mzuzu, 300km north of Lilongwe.

The Maravi Post reports from Blantyre that an eyewitness to the protests, Mike Chipalasa of the Malawi Human Rights Commission, said of the protesters: "They have been beaten terribly and were thrown into a riot police van."

He told the Post that the arrested leaders had taken refuge in a church when they were seized. One of them was Undule Mwakasungura, chairman of the Human Rights Consultative Committee, which organised the protests.

Several journalists and photographers were also taken into custody.

The demonstrations, organised by Malawi's opposition parties and a group of civil society groups, aim to draw attention to a range of issues including repressive media laws, fuel shortages and problematic economic governance.

The injunction against the protesters was sought by a self-described "concerned citizen", Chiza Mbekeani late Tuesday night.

However, a Malawi broadcaster, Zodiak Radio, reportedly obtained a copy of a subsquent court order freeing protesters from the ban. This now means that the demonstrators are able to participate in peaceful protests.

Mbekeani apparently works for Malawi's ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

The injunction was reported by Malawi media to have sparked the confrontations between demonstrators and police in Mzuzu and Lilongwe.

Violent incidents were reported from Mzuzu, where demonstrators reportedly ransacked an office of the DPP, as well as setting a vehicle alight. Stone-throwing was also reported from the town, and eyewitnesses say the situation was worsening during Wednesday.

Lilongwe's protests turned violent as well, with vehicles being burned.

Protests in the commercial capital, Blantyre, where residents wore red to show that they were participating in the demonstrations, remained peaceful,

Demonstrations are also said to be spreading to Chinsapo, Chilinde and Mulli.

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