Civilians chase Malawi police officers, take charge of road block

Drama ensued Saturday in Malawi’s northern district of Karonga when scores of civilians raided a police road block and took over charge.

The civilians are accusing police officers manning North Rukuru River road block of gross corruption, a development they claim has resulted in increased illegal exportation of maize to neighbouring Tanzania and Kenya.

However, hours later heavily armed police officers regained the captured road block after dispersing the attackers with gun shots fired in the air. No one was injured in the fracas.

Meanwhile, police have arrested 14 civilians suspected to have been master-minders of the invasion and have since been charged with two counts of causing breach of peace and obstructing police officers on duty.

One of the road blocks in Malawi

Karonga Police Station OfficerWilliam Kadzayekha confirmed both the incident and the arrest of the 14 angry civilians.

The local citizens who went on rampage are said to have come from three villages of Kafikisira, Vindi and Kambitoto.

According to the villagers, the law enforcers at the road block were failing their duty to curb illegal exportation of maize to Tanzania and Kenya which has resulted in rising cost of the commodity in the border town.

An eye witness said the angry villagers chased away police officers they found at the road block and assumed their duty.

“They said they had lost trust and confidence in the police officers and wanted to man the road block themselves so that no more was transported,” he said.

He added: “They said their action was aimed at protecting the hunger stricken citizens in the area who were failing to buy the commodity because they could not afford due to the exorbitant prices.”

The local citizens’ targetwere trucks which transport maize to the area where it is illegally exported to Tanzania.

And during the invasion, about three trucks carrying maize were reportedly returned and were escorted by armed police officers after the civilians threatened to set them on fire.

Paramount Chief Kyungu, who has been vocal against maize smuggling and recently asked government to deploy Malawi Defence Force (MDF) officers, condemned the villagers’ action.

But Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) Karonga district coordinator Gracian Mbewe accused the police of being heavy-handed.

The illegal exportation of maize comes at a time when reports indicate that about two million Malawians will be affected by hunger due to food shortage.

Malawi experienced the worst hunger in 1981/82, 1991/92 and 2001/02 growing seasons and President Joyce Banda said last month she expected the same this year.

A few weeks ago President Banda ordered the police and the Ministry of Agriculture to seal all the country’s boarders to stop exportation of the commodity.

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