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International responses to Malawi protests-UPDATED

21 July 2011
by

There have been a few responses in the international community in the day after protests escalated into violence in Malawi.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon issued a very brief statement:

The Secretary-General is concerned by news of violence in Malawi, where clashes between demonstrators and police caused many deaths and injuries. He is saddened by the loss of life and reiterates his call for all differences to be resolved through peaceful means.

Its brevity allows it to avoid laying blame. The UK Foreign Office Minister takes a remarkably different approach:

Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham: “I call on President Mutharika to rein in the security forces and elements of his party, and to allow the media to report freely on the situation in the country.”

Commenting on the ongoing violence in Malawi, Minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham, said:

“The ongoing violence and reprisals by elements connected to President Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party underline the concern that the UK has expressed about the state of democratic governance and human rights in Malawi. This situation is extremely worrying and I offer my sincere condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives. I urge all parties to show restraint.

“The rights of free assembly and expression guaranteed under the Malawian Constitution must be respected. The UK utterly condemns the threatening behaviour of machete wielding DPP activists and the violent attacks on demonstrators and the media. I call on President Mutharika to rein in the security forces and elements of his party, and to allow the media to report freely on the situation in the country. Any attacks or reprisals against demonstrators, opposition leaders or the media are absolutely unacceptable.”

Apparently, the US State Department has also issued a press release (though one wouldn’t know it from their web site). Will provide the link once it’s up, but here is the text of the statement according to Global Equality Today:

July 21, 2011

For immediate release and posting: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesperson

STATEMENT BY HEIDE BRONKE FULTON, ACTING DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON

U.S. Condemns Violent Disruption of Protests in Malawi

The United States strongly condemns the use of force by Malawian authorities on July 20 to prevent their own citizens from exercising their constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully as well as the ban imposed on media reporting of the confrontations. Denying the right of people to protest peacefully is unacceptable. We are disturbed by reports of violence targeting individuals on account of their political or social affiliations. We are also troubled by the announcement from the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) banning all private radio stations from covering the demonstrations. In light of continued rioting and rumors of retaliation, we urge restraint from both sides.

The Malawian people are guaranteed the right to peaceful association and freedom of expression in their constitution. The Government’s attempt to prohibit its citizens from marching, and the regulator’s ban on independent media coverage undermine democracy and the rule of law that Malawians cherish and are seeking to protect. We recall the words of President Mutharika at the April 7 Millennium Challenge Corporation signing ceremony in Lilongwe, that he “will continue to adhere to and uphold democracy and good governance, freedom of expression, freedom of association” and other fundamental freedoms enshrined in Malawi’s constitution.

The United States calls on the people and the Government of Malawi to remain committed to the principles of democracy and to express disagreements through peaceful means.

***UPDATE***
The actual press release as posted to the US State Department’s web site in the last hour is different from that given above. I am not sure why. Here is the US State Department’s press release:

Heide Bronke Fulton
Acting Deputy Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 21, 2011
The United States strongly condemns the use of force by Malawian authorities on July 20 to prevent peaceful demonstrations, as well as the ban imposed on all private radio stations reporting on the demonstrations. We also are disturbed by reports of violence targeting individuals based on their political or social affiliations. The government’s attempt to prohibit its citizens from marching, and the Communications Regulatory Authority’s ban on independent media coverage undermine democracy and the rule of law that Malawians cherish.

We recall President Mutharika’s remarks at the April 7 Millennium Challenge Corporation signing ceremony in Lilongwe that he will continue to adhere to and uphold democracy and good governance, freedom of expression, freedom of association. In light of continued rioting and rumors of retaliation, we urge restraint from both sides. We call on the people and the Government of Malawi to remain committed to the principles of democracy and to express disagreements through peaceful means.

Here is an excerpt from the statement from Amnesty International that Malawi must investigate the protest killings:

The Malawian authorities must immediately launch an independent investigation into the deaths of at least eight people shot by security forces during demonstrations that erupted into violence in the northern city of Mzuzu, Amnesty International said today.

Finally — and I cringe as I type this — here is a statement from Madonna, adopted mother of two Malawian children, formerly a pop music star:

“I am deeply concerned about the violence today in Malawi, especially the devastating impact on Malawi’s children. Malawi must find a peaceful solution to these problems that allows donors to have confidence that their money will be used efficiently.”

***UPDATE***
On July 22, the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) issued a statement as well. For those who don’t know, the MCC has awarded a $350.7 million grant to Malawi to improve and increase access to power. There was a period of delay between the grant selection in January and the finalization of the award in April that suggested MCC was concerned with finalizing a deal given growing doubts about the democracy/governance situation (see press release on finalization of award). Here is the full text of the MCC statement:

Millennium Challenge Corporation Statement on Recent Events in Malawi

MCC is deeply concerned by this week’s events in Malawi. The use of force by Malawian authorities on July 20 to prevent peaceful demonstrations, as well as the restrictions imposed on media reporting on those demonstrations, calls into question the government’s commitment to good governance principles as captured by MCC’s scorecard. We are further disturbed by reports of violence targeting individuals based on their political or social affiliations.

We join the whole of the U.S. Government in calling on the people and the Government of Malawi to remain committed to the principles of democracy and to express disagreements through peaceful means.

MCC supports citizens’ fundamental freedoms of expression and association in our partner countries. As a core part of a compact partnership, MCC expects the Government of Malawi to maintain and demonstrate a commitment to democracy and the rule of law. In light of this week’s events, MCC is closely monitoring the actions of the Government of Malawi and reviewing MCC operations.

The European Union also issued a statement on July 22:

Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, issued the following statement today:

“I strongly condemn the use of force and live ammunition by Malawian authorities on 20 and 21 July and to prevent their own citizens from exercising their constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully, as well as the ban imposed on media reporting of the confrontations. Denying the right of people to protest peacefully is unacceptable, and I am disturbed by reports of unwarranted violence targeted at certain individuals on July 20 because of their political or social affiliations. I am further disturbed by the announcement from the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) banning all private radio stations from broadcasting the demonstrations.

At the same time I am also critical of and condemn the violence and looting perpetrated by a limited number of individuals during the protests.

The Malawian people are guaranteed the right to peaceful association and freedom of expression in their constitution. The attempts by state security to prohibit its citizens from marching in the capital city and other locations, and the regulator’s ban on independent media coverage undermine democracy and the rule of law that Malawians cherish and are fighting to protect and strengthen.

I call on the people and the Government of Malawi to remain committed to the principles of
democracy and to express and resolve disagreements through peaceful means. I note that in his address to the nation on 21 July the President, while criticising the violence has recognised the need for dialogue with all stakeholders I strongly encourage this dialogue to start as soon as possible.”

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 22 July 2011 12:18 am

    You know, re: Madge, the more i think about this instance, the more i’m actually glad she said something. Reason being: a lot of my friends in the US who don’t really follow what’s going on many places outside of their hometown might be more likely to get this on their radar than if she’d stayed quiet. Well, at least people like those friends of mine, since i’ve been blasting my Twitter/G+/FB feeds with occasional updates (largely links to your posts or things i’ve found via click-throughs from things you’ve posted).

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  1. Sentences to ponder, Madonna edition « Aid Thoughts

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