Malawi’s United Democratic Front (UDF), the former ruling party that sponsored the candidature of current President Bingu wa Mutharika, has threatened massive protests if Atupele Muluzi is not released today.
Police arrested Atupele, a presidential aspirant and son to former president Bakili Muluzi on Tuesday, on charges that he went ahead to hold a rally after city fathers had refused him authority.
This is the second high-profile arrest of a critic of Mutharika in less than a week.
Atupele’s rally was later stopped by armed police and angry supporters set fire to a police station, a police car and a police officer’s house, raising tension in the African country, which was rocked last July by the police killing of 20 people during nationwide demonstrations against government policies and suspected corruption.
“We are mobilising and ready to protest against his arrest because we now understand what the DPP is up to and want,” party secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala said
Atupele, 33, is among a new generation of politicians and has a large following, especially among the youth who make up over 50 percent of the population.
“This is a politically motivated arrest,” UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala said.
Atupele’s arrest follows the detention last weekend of the outspoken chairman of the government’s Human Rights Commission, which has blamed Mutharika for inciting violence.
With the Malawi judiciary strike clocking more than two months, lawyers and observers alike are wondering how police managed to obtain a warrant of arrest and another to transfer Atupele Muluzi from Lumbadzi police this morning to Maula Maximum prison.
Joyce Banda, Mutharika’s deputy turned opposition leader, was forced to get out of the car and walked for close to a kilometer into the prison. She managed to talk to Atupele.
John Tembo was expected to visit Atupele aswell.
Police are stopping everyone into driving through along the road leading to Maula Prison.
Mutharika lauded by Western donors for averaging economic growth of more than 7 percent annually in recent years, has lost popularity as life has become increasingly difficult in the past year due to shortages of fuel, medicine and foreign currency.
Key donors including the United States and Britain have frozen aid over concerns about suspected human rights abuses and creeping autocracy and the country’s aid programme with the International Monetary Fund is on hold due to disagreements between Lilongwe and the lender.