By Mabvuto Banda

LILONGWE (Reuters) – Malawi’s Human Rights Commission on Monday accused President Bingu wa Mutharika of inciting violence against critics that has led to petrol bomb attacks on the properties of two leading activists.

Mutharika riled activists when he threatened attacks against his opponents who staged an unprecedented protest against his government in July. The rallies, crushed by police, left 20 dead and led to international condemnation.

“When he (the president) says things like ‘let’s start a war, I will smoke you out, go to hell, shoot to kill’, they have an impact on supporters,” said John Kapito, executive director for the government’s human rights commission.

“Political statements should be checked to avoid more casualties,” Kapito said.

The home of activist MacDonald Sembereka was petrol bombed over the weekend and the offices of Rafiq Hajat, another leader of the July protest, were set on fire last week.

Police said they are investigating the cases.

Government spokeswoman Patricia Kaliati said: “Civil society groups are not our enemies. They complement our work and as such we have asked police to fully investigate these criminal acts.”

Last week, Mutharika announced a reshuffle that strengthened his family’s hold in the cabinet. Mutharika, who has been criticised for his autocratic style, would remain in charge of defence.

The crackdown on the protest have caused international donors, whose aid normally accounts for a third of the government budget, to shun the impoverished southern Africa country.

Civil society groups have threatened more protests unless Mutharika declares his wealth, dollar and fuel shortages and restore diplomatic relations with Britain, the country’s former colonial overlord.

Even before the protests, Britain had frozen aid worth more than $500 million over the next four years because of a diplomatic spat between the two countries.

 

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