Malawi anti-government protests called off

By Wanga Gwede, Nyasa Times

Barely 24 hours to go, civil society organisations in Malawi have announced the call off of their much-anticipated and widely publicised August 17 national vigils.

Rodgers Newa, a spokesman for the organizers, told reporters Tuesday that protests were being postponed indefinitely because of a court injunction issued to stop them and because of United Nations mediation efforts

Another member of the vigils’ organisers, Undule Mwakasungura, said the decision was reached at following lengthy discussions with authorities on the issues.

“After a long discussion and thoughts yesterday involving the CSOs organisers, Malawi Human Rights Commission, the police and the UN team visiting Malawi we have decided to postpone the demonstrations on a number of factors,” said Mwakasungura.

Mwakasungura: The vigil has been called off. Photo: AFP

Among the factors, Mwakasungura, who is also the Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), said they include the  court injunction against the organisers, to give room to dialogue to be facilitated by the a team from the United Nations and in view of not losing more lives and peoples property.

“We will later be meeting government with the UN team facilitating it on agreeing modalities for dialogue… any dialogue will be based on the petition we presented to the President and his government,” said Mwakasungura, who has been in the forefront of the demonstrations starting with the July 20.

Another member of the organizing committee, Moses Mkandawire said the development does not mean end to the whole issue but the leaders will wait for the outcome of the dialogue.

When asked why they have cancelled the vigils this time around when on July 20 they went ahead despite the court injunction Mkandawire said: “That time the injunction was served to us at night and this time it has been served to us almost two days before the vigils and we have to respect rule of law.

“Secondly, we have decided not to go ahead with the vigils not only because of the injunction but several factors surrounding the whole issue.”

Further asked if the threats from President Bingu wa Mutharika that he would deal with them right in the streets, the activist bluntly responded: “No way, that has nothing to do with the cancellation and we have never been afraid with that.”

Meanwhile, some opposition parties which on Monday told the nation they were again ready to join the vigils said they appreciate the decision reached by the concerned parties and are hoping that the dialogue will produce good results.

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