‘Heavy-handed’ Police accused of assualting disabled University of Malawi students during protests

Human rights campaigners have criticized ‘heavy-handed’ Malawi Police officer who went to the offices and hostels of  Chancellor College of the University of Malawi in Zomba  during student demonstrations against high tuition and low allowances firing teargas anyhow.

Chipulumutso Asabuni a student who was assaulted by Police after he had tried to rescue a blind student from being beaten by the Cops, said members of staff, students with disability and even those that thought they were not part of the demo in their rooms suffered  with the “overboard and disproportionate” actions by the police.

Malawi Watch director Billy Banda described as “unacceptable” the actions of police to protesting students.

He said: “The right to protest is a fundamental democratic right and one that the state and police have a duty to protect and facilitate.”

A law lecture at Chancellor College also told Nyasa Times: “Freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly are foundations of a free and democratic society. Violation of students’ right to freely and peacefully express their grievances, and impunity enjoyed by perpetrators send a clear message Malawi is not free or democratic.”

Police accused of being "overboard and disproportionate"
Police accused of being “overboard and disproportionate”

Two female students were reported evacuated to Zomba Central Hospital  after suffering from the effects of teargas police fired to break up the protests.

Police has since blocked the college’s main entrance to prevent the students from leaving campus.

Eastern Region Police spokesperson Thomeck Nyaude said the protest was illegal, a charge the students refute, saying they were granted permission by relevant authorities.

Nyaude said Police arrested four students including their union leader Israel Masiyano for leading the demonstrations after they had prepared a petition to present to the District Commissioner who was supposed to pass it on to government authorities.

In the petition, the students are demanding an increase in their upkeep allowance and a reduction of fees for students who aren’t on government scholarships and pay their own tuition fees.

Meanwhile,  Director of Publications of the Students Union of Chancellor College (SUCC) Odala Balamu has said they are planning   to seek the intervention of the courts if the authorities order the college’s shut down.

“We had the DC’s approval to go ahead with the planned vigils, but police blocked us arguing that it was illegal. As SUCC, we are planning of filing for an injunction tomorrow which will restrain the police from interfering with our legal march to the university offices,” said Balamu.

“We will also seek a stay order restraining government and the University Council from closing the college. With these court orders, students will freely go ahead with the vigils with the assurance that closure of the college won’t be affected.”

“Students shouldn’t lose any hope. We are fighting this battle to the very end, Tomorrow, they [students] should gather at the Quad [College Square] where there will be a sound system to entertain them while SUCC will be running up and down to seek the injunctions,” advised Balamu.

Last week Friday, students from Polytechnic, another constituent college of University of Malawi, took to the streets to express their anger after they were told that their living allowances will not be raised because government does not have the money increase the allowance.

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