Two people have died and 50 houses torched in the past two days in a fresh spate of inter-village fights over land issues in Nkhata Bay District.
The latest incident comes about 10 months after a similar scene occurred in the district which left four people dead with 21 houses torched following a fight between villages in traditional authorities Mkumbira and Timbiri in the district over suspected stolen property.
A police report we have seen shows that the fresh fight was triggered by the alleged murder of a 35-year-old man at Old Maula Trading Centre in the district last Sunday. The deceased, from Chinganga Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Fukamalaza, was killed by a mob allegedly from Nkhole Village under the same T/A.
In retaliation, people from the deceased’s village went to avenge, leading to the inter-village fight which claimed a life while houses were set ablaze and livestock killed, according to police.
In an interview, Nkhata Bay Police Station spokesperson Kondwani James said: “It is a long standing feud between members of the two villages over land. Members of the two villages had given each other boundaries or no-go zones. So, the first deceased was killed for crossing the line and his village fought back.”
He said the deceased’s village invaded the suspects’ village and “killed one person, injured four people currently admitted to Chintheche Rural Hospital, burnt 50 houses while 20 goats were stolen, and seven canoes burnt”.
In June this year, two people were killed at Sanga in T/A Mankhambira in another revenge killing traced to a drinking joint, according to a police report, where one was assaulted to death and, in retaliation, the aggrieved family members hacked the suspect to death.
In May this year, around Tukombo area in T/A Zilakoma, a 27-year-old man Miloni Banda was killed by his own friends. His family members had wanted to revenge, but the T/A intervened and quelled the situation.
Since January this year, Nkhata Bay has registered 11 murder cases, but national statistics for murder between January and July stand at 463, according to information from Malawi Police Service. Police say mob justice is among the top three causes of murder in the country.
In a statement, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera warned against mob justice, saying: “The service strongly condemns this uncivilised behaviour and warns that all individuals who have had a hand in the above cited incidents will be arrested and prosecuted accordingly.
“So far, three village heads, who are suspected to have been fuelling the violence in Chintheche [Nkhata Bay], have already been arrested.”
He appealed for dialogue where there is misunderstanding instead of resorting to violence.