Malawi’s Mysterious Fires

Blantyre market after the fire

The People Party (PP), Malawi’s new political party belonging to Vice President Joyce Banda, has become the latest victim of arson attacks targeting President Bingu wa Mutharika’s opponents.

Salim Bagus, the National Organising Secretary for PP, over the weekend saw his Lilongwe Area 47 house up in flames after a suspected petrol bomb attack. Bagus immediately accused the ruling party for the attack.

“This is coming days after Patricia Kaliati said I went to Germany to collect money for the demonstrations, I would be at pains not to speculate. But I want to say only God knows what has happened, but this will not scare me, it will only strengthen my resolve that all Malawians should live a just and fair life,” said Bagus.

The fire destroyed his living room, and damaged two bedrooms and a kitchen. On the same day the fires were reported in Blantyre where Blantyre market was destroyed. In Lilongwe, Tsoka market also reported fires

The fires come after Malawi’s Human Rights Commission accused President Bingu wa Mutharika of inciting violence against critics that has led to petrol bomb attacks on the properties of two leading activists.

Mutharika riled activists when he threatened attacks against his opponents who staged an unprecedented protest against his government in July. The rallies, crushed by police, left 20 dead and led to international condemnation.

The home of activist MacDonald Sembereka was petrol bombed last week and the offices of Rafiq Hajat, another leader of the July protest, were set on fire.

The crackdown on the  protests have caused international donors, whose aid normally accounts for a third of the government budget, to shun the impoverished southern Africa country.

Civil society groups have threatened more protests unless Mutharika declares his wealth, dollar and fuel shortages and restore diplomatic relations with Britain, the country’s former colonial overlord.

Even before the protests, Britain had frozen aid worth more than $500 million over the next four years because of a diplomatic spat between the two countries.