A renowned political scientist at Chancellor College of the University of Malawi has cautioned the Police of being too heavy-handed in dealing with protests, harassing and intimidating people as the country gears for an election next year.
This follows ugly scenes at the gates of police headquarters in Area 30, Lilongwe on Wednesday where peaceful United Transformation Movement (UTM) protesters led by former First Lady Callista Mutharika were teargassed by the police.
They had gone to the police headquarters to demand the unconditional release of a social media activist Manice Dawood Hale who had been arrested at Kamuzu International Airport as she was about to board a plane back to her base in the US.
Some people were injured and were rushed to hospital following the teargas.
But Augustine Magolowondo of Chancellor College cautioned the police to always be professional and avoid to be used for political expediency.
“The police are a profession police. They should exercise caution and restraint in the use of force,” he said.
He said the police at Area 30 over reacted when they teargassed the UTM activists, saying they were not armed and could have just discussed with them.
But police spokesperson James Kadadzera said they are acting lawfully.
He the use of force is allowed when protesters fail to adhere to commands of the commander at the scene.
“What is needed is for people to abide by what the officers are communicating to them. Our job is to bring order and stability,” said Kadadzera.
The arrest of Hale comes amid reports that the police, on orders from State House, are planning to arrest some UTM top officials including Callista Mutharika, Noel Masangwi and Patricia Kaliati, reports which have since been dismissed by Kadadzera.
Magolowondo comments on police comes as the law encorfers prepare to deal with large-scale protests on September 8 when civil society organisations plan to demand resignation of President Peter Mutharika in the streets.
Observers says the use of officers in riot gear to police protests could “unnecessarily raise the temperature” of crowds, making conflict more likely, and said police should not be using teargas at peaceful protests.
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