Malawi police use tear gas to break up protests

Armed police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators demanding the resignation of Malawi’s president, Peter Mutharika.  Mutharika narrowly won re-election in the southern African country in May.

Critics say the election was rigged.

Teargas is seen outside the Malawi Congress Party headquarters in Lilongwe, Malawi June 6, 2019, in this still image obtained from video taken from social media. Ulemu Msungama (Malawi Congress Party)/via REUTERS.

Thousands of supporters of opposition parties marched in the streets of the capital, Lilongwe, a Reuters witness said, with one group occupying a complex housing the presidency and government offices for a third day.

Protesters said police had also fired bullets, and police spokesman James Kadadzera said a child had been “accidentally shot” but survived. He provided no further details.

“The crowds were getting violent today so we decided to fire tear gas to quell the protests,” the police spokesman said.

Reuters could not independently verify witness accounts that the child had been shot with a live round, and hospitals in the city declined to say if they were treating any victims of bullet wounds.

Most protesters support the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP), which is challenging the electoral commission’s verdict along with another party, the United Transformation Movement.

“We will not fear the police, we will not be stopped until Mutharika steps down because he stole this election,” MCP secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka said.

A spokesman for the president’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) accused the MCP of creating unrest to make it difficult for Mutharika to govern.

“We won the election clean and fair and …the opposition should accept defeat and agree to work together (with us) to correct Malawi’s many ills,” Nicholas Dausi said.

The small, landlocked country won independence from Britain in 1964. After an initial period of economic and social stability, it is now ranked among the poorest countries in the world, reliant on donor funding and tobacco and tea exports.

“We can’t afford another five years of a thieving and corrupt government,” said 28-year-old protester Lusungu Gondwe.