Army moves in as vendors, police clash in Lilongwe: 18 nabbed

Business in Lilongwe Old Town came to a standstill on Thursday following a fracas that ensued between riot police and vendors, leaving several people injured and some shops looted over the disagreements of the locality of the traders.

Trouble begun in the morning when Lilongwe City Assembly workers, under police guard,  started to clean up the streets and then impounded goods from the vendors demanding them to relocate to the designated flea markets.

Shops, mostly belonging to Chinese owners, were badly looted and broken along Malangalanga Road.

Soldiers in the city

The development forced heavily armed police to throw teargas to disperse the crowd that was in hundreds, injuring several people but the fear of death did not move the vendors.

Vendors are said to have also injured a Police woman who was hit by a stone.

Central Region Police spokesperson Kingsley Dandaula said “Police are patrolling the streets to protect citizens”.

The defiance shown by vendors has seen the deployment of the Malawi Defence Force soldiers in the streets of the capital.

“Lilongwe old town resembles a war zone. Running battles between police and vendors. Shops being looted. Cars being smashed. Cry my beloved country,” one of the country’s top –notch lawyer Ralph Kasambara posted on Facebook advising people to avoid the area.

Public Relations Officer for Lilongwe City Assembly, Tamara Chafunya,  said the  relocation of vendors from streets to flea markets was long overdue and that the authorities were “following the city by-laws” to move the traders out of the streets.

A random interview with some of the vendors showed that they are not willing to move from the streets, arguing that President Bingu wa Mutharika gave them an OK to trade anywhere.

Soon after the 20th July 2011 anti-government demonstrations, President Mutharika said when he hosted a party for the traders that they were free to operate along the streets.

Malawi’s City Assemblies have for the past years been snatching commodities from vendors who sell goods by lingering around town.

Arressts

Meanwhile, police said they arrested 18 people following the clashes and would be charged with illegal selling, while two others would be charged for conduct likely to cause breach of peace “soon after investigations are over.”

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