Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has blamed the country’s city councils and Malawi Police Service for allegedly fuelling violence, looting and vandalism that have characterised recent demonstrations organised by the grouping.
While blaming the violence, HRDC, which is organising a series of nationwide protests to force Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah to resign, said it has in some cases used the courts to demonstrate, especially after being denied permission in Lilongwe and Blantyre cities.
In a statement issued yesterday, HRDC national chairperson Timothy Mtambo said it had noted with sadness that in some places, long after and outside the demonstrations, some people engaged in arson, looting and destruction of private and public property.
While sympathising with all those who suffered personal injury, loss or damage to their property, HRDC has since appealed to police to arrest all culprits involved in these criminal acts.
Reads the statement in part: “We once again would like to condemn government and city assemblys’ behaviour in trying to block Malawians’ constitutional right to demonstrate. Why should citizens always use the courts to seek relief from exercising their constitutional right when other Malawians such as DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] sympathisers can freely enjoy their rights?
“This impunity must come to an end now. This behaviour by city councils fuels the anger of Malawians. We demand that the city councils and the police should stop putting barriers and unreasonable demands for citizens to exercise their constitutional rights.”
Mtambo said HRDC is available to work with relevant authorities to prevent violence before, during and after the demonstrations.
The HRDC statement comes after Inspector General of Police Rodney Jose wrote the grouping, requesting that it stops convening demonstrations following violent and criminal acts that have characterised recent protests.
“In view of the above, the Malawi Police Service, in exercise of its powers under Section 105 (1) of the Police Act, demands that HRDC should forthwith stop convening demonstrations until such a time when it would be possible to convene and hold peaceful demonstrations,” said Jose.
Mzuzu has been the centre of violent demonstrations since June 20.
During the latest protests on Thursday, regional offices of DPP, Chiputula Police Unit and Mzuzu City Council Health Department office situated at Mzuzu Stadium were torched.
During the July 4 to 5 protests, Mzuzu was yet again the centre of destruction as sections of protesters burned public property, including a building housing Treasury Cashier’s Regional Office (North). In Lilongwe, some of the protesters broke into an electronics shop and walked away with laptop computers and other electronic appliances