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Events in Malawi illustrate decline

24 September 2011

There is breaking news from Malawi that a university student critical of President Bingu wa Mutharika has been found dead on campus. Reporters are calling the death “mysterious” but commenters on the news articles seem convinced there is no mystery as to what happened (warning, photos in article linked are graphic). For example, one said:


There is a Facebook Group that has already started to memorialize the student, Robert Chasowa.

There were more demonstrations planned in Malawi for this past Wednesday, September 21st, to protest the declining economic and governance situation. Like previous protests scheduled for August 17th, the civil society organizations promoting the protests pulled out at the eleventh hour. Al Jazeera English interviewed civil society leader Rafiq Hajat (whose IPI offices were petrol-bombed in the weeks prior to the planned protests) on the 21st. Hajat explained why the organizers had opted to promote a stay-away instead of street protests. The full interview is posted online:

Given the obvious weakness of civil society in contemporary Malawi, it is unclear whether there will be any check to government-supported brutality. Some friends are holding out hope that the churches will get involved. However, they have been relatively quiet compared to their agitation for democracy in the 1990s. The current situation in Malawi is worrying me about the safety of friends and colleagues that have been critical of the government and I honestly can’t say where things will go from here.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Christian permalink
    24 September 2011 6:40 pm

    We were in Malawi 2 weeks ago…one of our contacts there told us that the CSO organizers are being paid off by Bingu. Hence no protests on August 17th or September 21st. Not overly surprising if it’s true…

    • 25 September 2011 6:14 am

      Christian — this is a widely held perception in Malawi, though there has yet to be any evidence to support it. It is important to note, however, that two of the major civil society organizers have had their homes/offices petrol-bombed following the president’s statement to “smoke out” his rivals.


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