Malawi protesters clash with police

2011-07-20 15:29
Blantyre - Protesters in Malawi went on the rampage on Wednesday after a court injunction stopped them protesting the economic and democratic crisis in the country.

"The situation is very bad here," Malawi Human rights commission spokesperson Mike Chipalasa told AFP.

"There have been running battles between the police and demonstrators," he said.

After police fired tear gas a mob vented its anger by burning down three houses rented by police officers at Ntchesi township in Lilongwe near the city centre and torching two government vehicles, he added.

"People are angry. The situation is tense," he said, saying about 400 people had gathered to stage the demonstrations.

An eyewitness told AFP that in the administrative capital Lilongwe, a group had also ransacked a shop belonging to lawmaker Adams Vinandi of the ruling Democratic Progress Party.

The unrest came after Malawi's high court issued an injunction stopping two groups from staging rival demonstrations.

A coalition of more than 80 rights groups had organised nationwide protest marches for Wednesday.

They wanted to protest what they say are moves by the Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika to roll back hard-fought democratic gains made since the first democratic polls in 1994 removed dictator Kamuzu Banda from power.

Mutharika’s policies


But a group calling itself "Concerned Citizens" had planned a counter-demonstration in support of the government.

In the end, the court has banned both demonstrations.

It issued its order on the grounds that it feared "possible disruptions and undesirable incidents", lawyer Mathews Chidzonde told AFP, who said he had obtained the injunction on behalf of a "concerned citizen".

Chidzonde was speaking from the administrative capital Lilongwe, where the main anti-government demo was to have been staged.

But the protesters had already gathered in the city centre when they were told about the injunction, and when police tried to disperse them they went on the rampage in the Ntchesi township.

Mutharika's policies have included a ban publications deemed "contrary to the public interest".

He has also imposed a requirement for activists seeking to hold protests to make a deposit of about $15 000 with police, intended as a safeguard against rioting and property damage.

- SAPA
Read more on:    bingu wa mutharika  |  malawi  |  uprisings  |  southern africa  |  malawi protests
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