Dozens of post-election protesters arrested in Malawi

Nearly 70 people have been arrested, a day after Mutharika accused protesters of plotting to oust his government.
Malawi opposition supporters march to the Malawian parliament during a demonstration against the re-election of the president, which protestors say was due to fraud, on July 4, 2019, in Lilongwe, Malawi. – About 3,500 marchers headed towards parliament where a two-day vigil is planned against the result of the May 21 presidential vote. The election was marred by allegations of fraud, including that many results sheets were altered using typewriter correction fluid. (Photo by AMOS GUMULIRA / AFP)

Police in Malawi said Sunday they had arrested dozens of people over a wave of protests that have gripped the country following disputed results from May’s election won by President Peter Mutharika.

Nearly 70 people have been arrested, police said, a day after Mutharika accused protesters of plotting to oust his government.

Police said the arrests came after “criminal acts”, including looting and the stoning of cars and buildings during demonstrations on Thursday.

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“So far we have arrested 68 suspects strongly connected to the looting and injuring of police officers,” police said in a statement.

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Protest organisers were defiant, vowing to go back to the streets calling for the electoral commission chief Jane Ansah, to resign.

A new round of protests is scheduled to resume on Monday.

“We will be on the streets exercising our rights peacefully,” said the organisers, a coalition of rights groups, in a statement on Sunday.

Protesters watch a Malawi Defence Force armoured vehicle passing by during an overnight vigil against the result of the May 21 presidential vote in Lilongwe on July 4, 2019. – Several thousand people protested in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe on July 4, 2019 against the re-election of the President, which they claim was fraudulent. (Photo by AMOS GUMULIRA / AFP)

“We will not abrogate our ultimate citizens rights to assemble and to protest because of the cynical and nefarious actions of a tiny few. We will not be cowered into accepting an incompetent (electoral commission),” they said.

On Saturday Mutharika told a rally to mark the country’s 55th anniversary of independence that the violence linked to the protests was “calculated to turn Malawi into a lawless state”.

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“They want to create lawlessness so that they can take over this government. But they will only take this government over my dead body,” he said.

The nationwide protests have been organised by a non-profit grouping, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition, which has rejected allegations of trying to topple the government.

None of the main protest organisers has been reported arrested.

Opposition leaders claim correction fluid was used on some results sheets and have lodged complaints in court.

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