Malawi activists ask people to stay away for 3 days

Malawi’s rights groups have asked everyone to stay home for the next three days and hold vigils within their communities in protest against President Bingu wa Mutharika’s rule

The groups who pulled out of the UN facilitated dialogue with government last week said that they had decided for a three day stay away to avoid a repeat of the July 20 when 20 people were shot dead by police.

Right groups at a meeting in Lilongwe

Billy Mayaya, Peter Chinoko, Dorothy Ngoma and Martha Kwataine said that the changes have been made because of late responses from Police and City Councils.

“We are calling upon every Malawian who understands our cause to stay away from work and pray and reflect on issues affecting our country. These issues are governance, shortage of drugs, fuel, harassment of human rights defenders, deteriorating freedoms among others,” said Chinoko.

Yesterday, the High Court in Blantyre threw out an injunction seeking to stop the protests, a ruling lauded by activists.

“We appreciate the role that the Judiciary continues to play in the consolidation of democracy in Malawi. On the other hand we are perturbed by the continued Governments abrogation of these freedoms,” said Mayaya.

“Our children are dying, surgeries are not taking place. Police say they will not protect anybody who walks tomorrow, so if we held the vigil at specific place, Police would come and teargas us, offices will be closed,” said Ngoma.

She said the issues raised on July 20 were reflective of the majority needs of Malawians saying Government had responsibility to address the issues such as drug shortages and closure of Chancellor College.

“We voted them into power. They should open the Chancellor College tomorrow, how they do it is not our business. They need to stock drugs, they need to answer all the 20 issues raised or we start with three days, it might be everyday if he does not heed it,” said Ngoma who vowed not to stop till the President provide adequate answers.

The activists are riled by the President’s threats and the petrol bombing of property belonging to leading activists.

“We suspended the dialogue because our colleagues houses were being burnt…The anger in people is very strong. We cannot continue to dialogue with houses being burnt. I am ashamed that Government is saying there will be bloodshed on the streets,” said Kwataine.

She said after three days the CSO’s will regroup and move forward, saying it was no longer time for people to fear anybody as all Malawians have a right to services and wealth that is part of Malawians.

“We asked the Police to protect people on July 20, this time we are afraid of people losing their lives so we say each Malawian stay at home for three days and reflect,” she said.

But the Presidential dialogue committee group has appealed to all Malawians to give dialogue a chance.

The groups chairman Archbishop Benard Malango said that the dialogue had not failed as claimed by the activists.