Malawi cops say 'life back to normal' after protests

Malawi police on Thursday cleared burning tyres left by protesters in the streets of the commercial hub Blantyre, after national anti-government protests erupted in rioting that left one dead.

Police spokesperson Davie Chingwalu would say only that “probably one [protester] died” on Wednesday in the northern town of Mzuzu, where a hospital official said one person was killed and six injured by police gunfire.

Edward Longwe, a police spokesperson in Mzuzu, told Agence France-Presse that authorities were still compiling a report on the rioting which broke out after security forces tried to suppress anti-government protests.

“Life is back to normal. The markets are open,” Longwe said.

The protests also turned violent in the capital Lilongwe, where homes and vehicles were set ablaze as police waged running battles with activists, firing teargas and using rifle butts to beat back crowds.

In Blantyre, police were “busy clearing the roads of debris and boulders”, Chingwalu said, after protesters set up roadblocks with burning tyres, trash, stones and logs.

In the township of Zingwangwa near the city, shopkeepers were also cleaning up after looters ransacked stores.

The Human Rights Consultative Committee, a group of more than 80 rights groups, organised the nationwide marches on Wednesday to protest President Bingu wa Mutharika’s handling of the economy and what activists call his growing autocratic tendencies.

Among those arrested and later released was Undule Mwakasungura, chairperson of the Human Rights Consultative Committee.

Several journalists and photographers were also arrested and beaten, according to witnesses.

Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, has suffered crippling fuel shortages since June as the government has run low on foreign currency to pay for imports.

Mutharika has also taken steps to restrain the media, limit protests, and restrict lawsuits against the government, prompting his rivals to accuse him of rolling back Malawi’s hard-fought democratic gains since the first multi-party elections in 1994. - AFP

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