Malawi police fired tear gas Friday at a demonstration of about 10,000 people protesting in the capital Lilongwe against the cost of living and state corruption, AFP correspondents found.
“It is shameful in a democracy, we had a permit to demonstrate,” said one of the leaders of the movement, former parliamentarian Bon Kalindo.
The police said they had not been informed of the events on the ground and were unable to comment.
The protest came amidst complaints by local rights organizations about the rising cost of living and the government’s indifference to the plight of Malawians.
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with only 11% of the population connected to electricity.
The demonstrators called on President Lazarus Chakwera to keep his campaign promises to create one million jobs and boost the economy.
The election in 2020 of the former opposition leader, who denounced the economic failure and corruption of his predecessor Peter Mutharika’s regime, had raised a wave of hope in the small landlocked southern African country.
But this first major demonstration since the elections shows the disillusionment of a population whose plight has been further aggravated by the Covid crisis.
“There is a general feeling of discontent,” warned South Africa-based Malawian political scientist Michael Jana, who pointed out that no economic recovery plan has been initiated by the government.
The protesters have given the government 14 days to respond to their demands or they will take to the streets again.
“Unfortunately, this is something that cannot be addressed in 14 days. This implies that we have to readjust our system,” Information Minister Gospel Kazako said.