by Gerry Emmett
Protests against deteriorating economic conditions, fuel shortages and government repression were met with brutal force by authorities in Malawi on June 20-21. Police fired on large crowds in a number of cities, attacking with tear gas, and forcing protest leaders into hiding. At least 19 people were killed in two days of clashes and many more were injured.
As discontent has risen, the government of President Bingu wa Mutharika has passed laws restricting freedom of speech and press, and other civil liberties, and allowing for warrantless searches. The June 20 protests were organized by labor unions and dozens of civil society organizations.
Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, is heavily dependent on foreign aid. Much of that aid has been suspended in light of President Mutharika’s extravagant personal spending and his government’s repressive measures. Demonstrators have promised that they will return to the streets if their demands are not addressed. Mutharika promises further repressive measures if they do so.