Malawi ruler draws parallel with UK riots, threatens NGO leaders

By Evelyn Chibwe, Nyasa Times

Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika has compared the protests in his country to this week’s riots in Britain and yet again issued arrest threats against unnamed civil rights leaders who planned the July 20 mass demonstrations against the deteriorating economic, social and political order.

“I will hunt you and I will find you,” the president said in his 25-minute long address.

Addressing the nation on state-owned Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) on Sunday, Mutharika said the demonstrations, which he said had resulted in a breakdown of peace, stability and security had plunged the country in dark history.

“There was unprecedented rooting, arson, beating and some Malawians lost the lives”, he said, squarely attributing it to the organisers of the demonstrations against poor political and economic governance against.

Mutharika: I will hunt organisers down

He admitted that demonstrators have a constitutional right to demonstration but that such a right must have corresponding responsibility.

Mutharika cited a case of Britain, where there have also been riots recently, saying the Prime Minister there had sternly warned people against taking advantage of rights to do acts of violence.

“In Britain, similar problems have occurred but the government, and the opposition and everyone have united that it is unacceptable to riot and claim that it is a right without the corresponding responsibilities,” said Mutharika, saying had the planners of the July 20 protests heed his plea for dialogue, lives would not have been lost and property destroyed.

He said on that day he had organized a public lecture where he outlined programmes that have been put in place to deal with the shortage forex and fuel and the erratic electricity supply and had invited the NGOs and opposition parties to hear what their thoughts were, but they refused.

“They had refused my offer for dialogue and instead opted for looting arson and stealing of property,” Mutharika said, adding that the demonstrations on July 20 were not political but criminal.

He alleged he had information to the effect that the arsonists and looters “were pre-assigned targets to attack” and that the whole strategy was being co-ordinated through cell phones, the private Zodiak Broadcasting Corporation “and other hostile radios”.

In a snap survey in the city of Blantyre, Nyasa Times talked to some people in the streets as an empty bucket of promises that he has been known for since 2004 when he was first elected Head of State.

They condemned Mutharika for again threatening leaders of civil society and opposition parties, saying all that went to the streets did that voluntary and without monetary inducements.

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