US warns Mutharika’s govt

The United States on Thursday warned Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika that his security forces’ use of force in unrest that has left 18 dead and urged restraint from all sides were undermining democracy, three months after he signed a $350 million aid package from the United States contingent on good governance.

“The United States strongly condemns the use of force by Malawian authorities on July 20 to prevent peaceful demonstrations, as well as the ban imposed on all private radio stations reporting on the demonstrations,” State Department spokeswoman Heide Bronke Fulton said in a statement.

Malawi demonstrators on July 20, 2011

“We also are disturbed by reports of violence targeting individuals based on their political or social affiliations,” she added.

The statement added: “The government’s attempt to prohibit its citizens from marching, and the Communications Regulatory Authority’s ban on independent media coverage undermine democracy and the rule of law that Malawians cherish.”

The United States in April signed an agreement with Malawi to provide $350 million, primarily to improve its power sector, as part of the Millennium Challenge Corporation program that is contingent on good governance.

“We recall President Mutharika’s remarks at the April 7 Millennium Challenge Corporation signing ceremony in Lilongwe that he will continue to adhere to and uphold democracy and good governance, freedom of expression, freedom of association.

“In light of continued rioting and rumours of retaliation, we urge restraint from both sides. We call on the people and the Government of Malawi to remain committed to the principles of democracy and to express disagreements through peaceful means,” she said.

US pop star Madonna, who adopted two Malawian children and runs charities in the impoverished southern African country, said she was “deeply concerned” by the violence and its “devastating impact on Malawi’s children”.

“Malawi must find a peaceful solution to these problems that allows donors to have confidence that their money will be used efficiently,” she said.

Soldiers were deployed in townships around the capital, Lilongwe, and the commercial hub, Blantyre, dispersing some 2000 protesters who had taken to the streets accusing Mutharika of mismanaging the economy and trampling on democratic rights.

At least 18 people have been killed and 44 people, including six children, were being treated for gunshot wounds at Mzuzu Central Hospital, Amnesty International said. –Nyasa Times

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