Monday, 18 July 2011

Malawi mass demonstration planned

Malawi's Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) has said that they will go ahead with nationwide demonstrations over the country's chronic fuel and medicine shortages and forex shortages in spite of the president scheduling a public lecture on the same day and threats of violent clashes by pro-Mutharika groups.

Malawi has faced growing problems over the past few months as several donors have suspended support over concerns about human rights and growing authoritarianism, including the UK, whose ambassador was thrown out of the country for criticizing the president. Concerns that are unlikely to be eased by the signing into law by Mutharika of a bill preventing the courts from granting injunctions against the government, in the face of a High Court order preventing him from doing so. Civil society has also expressed outrage over the recent purchase of $6-million phone-tapping software by the Malawi government. Activists argue that the equipment will be used to violate rights to privacy and is a waste of scarce forex.

The government of Malawi appears to be hoping to ease tensions by providing an opportunity for citizens to engage with the president through a public lecture by the president. Civil society groups have dismissed the lecture and say they will go ahead with their marches. Pro-Mutharika demonstrations will also be staged by a group calling themselves 'Concerned citizens', supported by, among others, traditional leaders. Opposition parties have said that they will join civil society in demonstrations. The US has warned citizens to avoid areas where demonstrations will be taking place and Malawian police are preparing for the possibility of clashes. Meanwhile, rumour has it that Mutharika's government is planning to arrest the Vice-President, Joyce Banda over the demonstrations.

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