(HN, July 22, 2011) Malawi’s embattled President Bingu wa Mutharika toured the town of Zomba on Friday, one of several riot-struck towns in Malawi this week.
Ministry of Health and police officials have confirmed 18 deaths, many severe injuries and 250 arrests since protests began on July 20 against high fuel prices and against what many Malawians believe is poorly run government by President Mutharika’s administration.
The deaths have occurred all over the country suggesting that the protests against the Mutharika administration are widespread – nine deaths in the city of Mzuzu in the north, six dead in the capital of Lilongwe, one in the northern town of Karonga and two in the town of Blantyre.
The President has blamed civil society groups and opposition parties for the violence, saying the protesters were provoked to loot and create chaos.
During a state function in the southern city of Zomba, while presiding over the commissioning of police officers, President Mutharika warned that he had had enough of unfair criticism and sabotage by the opposition and civil society. Mutharika warned of a harsh government reaction going so far as naming key opposition figures such as Vice President Joyce Banda as being behind the violence.
“Even God knows I have been the most patient president on the continent, said Mutharika. “Enough is enough. You want to take government by force, which is against the laws of the land. This time I will follow you into your homes. I will smoke you out.”
His reactions are in contrast to the message he delivered to the nation yesterday, appealing to the opposition and the civil society to come together and discuss the problems affecting Malawi.
Civil society leaders today say they will focus on burying the dead before deciding whether or not to begin a dialogue with Mutharika or continue the protests.
Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists have been critical of the president’s handling of the crisis so far, including the harassment and beating of journalists
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon voiced his concerns yesterday – In a statement by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said he was “saddened by the loss of life and reiterates his call for all differences to be resolved through peaceful means.”
- HUMNews Staff