United States ambassador to Malawi, Virginia Palmer was on Thursday forced to hurriedly leave the main opposition party’s headquarters as police fired teargas at protests outside over alleged election fraud.
Supporters of the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) had gathered in the capital Lilongwe in ongoing street protests after the May 21 presidential election, which their leader Lazarus Chakwera narrowly lost.
“It was my farewell call and I was saying thank you for the friendship and for the important role that he has done for Malawi over the four-and-a-half years I have been in Malawi,” Ambassador Palmer told reporters.
“Just as we finished the meeting, apparently rocks were thrown and the police responded with teargas. There was teargas flying around but my security people came and we proceeded out without incident.”
MCP activists allege that Chakwera was robbed of victory in the election, which he lost by just 159,000 votes to incumbent, Peter Mutharika.
Chakwera has rejected the outcome as “daylight robbery” and launched a court battle to have the result annulled on the grounds of fraud.
“I just call on all parties in Malawi to exercise restraint and proceed peacefully, while the MCP court case is going forward,” Palmer, who is due to leave her Malawi posting shortly, said.
“This is a peaceful country and a democratic country and we all need to respect these norms.”
The US embassy is located next to the MCP building in Lilongwe.
“As the police continued firing (teargas) we saw the US ambassador’s vehicle rushing out of the party’s headquarters,” eyewitness Jones Chinkhwangwa told reporters.
“She was whisked away in a car with the US flag.”
MCP spokesman, Eisenhower Mkaka told reporters that police had raided the party headquarters and disrupted several meetings.
“We had to run for our dear lives. The president (of the party) left the premises,” he said.
In the ballot count, Mutharika, of the Democratic Progressive Party, was declared the victor with 38.57 per cent of the vote, beating Chakwera on 35.41 per cent.
On Tuesday, thousands of MCP supporters marched through the city and burst into government offices.
EU deputy chief election observer, Mark Stephens has said “there were a lot of mistakes that were made in the tallying” but there was little evidence of tampering.
Heavy rains threaten Uganda’s coffee crop quality
Uganda’s coffee crop quality could see a decline in the coming months as heavy rains across the country have reduced the amount of sunshine necessary for bean drying.
Uganda is Africa’s largest exporter of coffee followed by Ethiopia and grows mostly robusta variety.
The country has been pounded by unusually heavy rains that started in August resulting in deaths, displacement and extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure.
Western Uganda, including the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains , some of the biggest coffee growing areas, has received some of the most intense rains.
Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), the state-run regulator, forecasts Uganda’s bean exports will climb 16 percent to 5.1 million 60-kg (132-pound) bags in the current crop year ending September.
The country’s coffee output has surged in recent years, the fruition of a government programme that has been distributing free seedlings to farmers to expand acreage and replace aging trees.
Authorities say their target is to help boost annual production to 20 million bags by 2025.
The beans have traditionally been Uganda’s biggest commodity export but were recently overtaken by gold which now annually earns the country over $1 billion.
Tanzania, France sign water supply loan agreement
Tanzania has signed a loan agreement with France to finance water supply projects that will benefit about 770,000 people in the country’s Morogoro municipality.
The French government will extend the loan worth about $76 million to Tanzania through its French Development Agency (AFD), according to Dotto James, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Planning who signed the agreement on behalf of Tanzania.
“Upon completion, the water supply in the Morogoro municipality will increase from the current 37,000 cubic meters a day to 108,000 cubic meters a day,” James told a press conference following a signing ceremony in Morogoro.
AFD Country Representative for Tanzania, Stephanie Mouen says the project will improve the well-being of the people in the municipality and it will also improve the environment.
Uganda approves return of over 2,500 nationals stranded abroad
Over 2,500 Ugandan nationals stranded abroad amid the Covid-19 pandemic can now return home as approved by the Ugandan cabinet.
The cabinet on Monday, agreed that Ugandan nationals trapped in 66 countries can return home at their own cost.
The government is making arrangements with the UN World Food Program (WFP) to fly the stranded citizens home, Judith Nabakooba, the country’s minister for information, communication technology and national guidance says, adding that all the returning citizens will have to undergo a 14-day mandatory institutional quarantine.
President Yoweri Museveni last month, directed Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda to study the possibility of evacuating dozens of citizens stranded abroad amid Covid-19 pandemic travel restrictions.
To contain the spread of Covid-19, the country on March 22 suspended all incoming flights, except cargo flights.