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The day before Malawi’s protests

19 July 2011

As I write this, it is night in Malawi — the night before the country is expected to have demonstrations against the government, planned in at least all of the major cities. Already ahead of the protests there were some serious developments, some of which have only been briefly reported in the international media:

Young men holding panga knives in the backs of government party (DPP) trucks were intimidating people in a central area of Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial capital and regional capital for the Southern Region. Canadian journalist Katie Lin posted two videos of the young men in Blantyre. There were also photos of the trucks of young men that came across Twitter:

Malawi Democrat reports a high court judge in the capital, Lilongwe, has granted an injunction against any demonstrations on July 20 (either pro-government or in opposition). The injunction should have jurisdiction countrywide, but sources in Malawi suspect this injunction won’t stop people from participating in the demonstration.

The Blantyre City Assembly authorized the Blantyre demonstrations could take place.

Journalist Agnes Mizere reports the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (government-run media) is calling the protests pr0-gay rights marches. Blogger Steve Sharra also reported on this in his longer piece, which gives more background on the protests.

Early in the day (roughly 24 hours before this post), users had problems accessing the opposition all-online news agency Nyasa Times. The Nyasa Times editor commented that the agency “is under attack from hackers who have launched a barage of Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks since yesterday. Engineers are working on defending and minimizing the disruption.” Access from the US has been intermittent.

The upcoming protests have generated very little attention in the international media. For example, this Voice of America article about Malawi’s vice president rejecting calls to resign mentions the upcoming protests at the end, with language that read as skeptical the protests will happen. Reuters was the first that I found to report on the demonstrations, detailing the “gangs” of pro-government youth in Blantyre intimidating potential protesters earlier today. A search via Google News showed no other international media reporting on the upcoming protests.

There are some people in Malawi that are posting regularly, for those who are interested in following the events in real time.  As of right now, there are 84 people listed on a public list I’ve created of people on Twitter who are posting updates from/about Malawi. I will continue to add to the list. Please comment if there are people I have missed.

The protests are scheduled to begin at 8am Malawi time (Standard Time +0200 UTC). I’ll do my best to keep everyone updated. Until then, keep the people of Malawi in your thoughts.


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