At least 15 people were arrested yesterday in Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC)-organised demonstrations, following the injury of five police officers and damage of property along the route protesters used in Lilongwe.
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera confirmed in an interview that police arrested a number of demonstrators for suspected offences during demonstrations which HRDC leaders termed as “peaceful”.
Soon after the demonstration started, police officers stationed at Mobile C Company in Lilongwe were pelted with stones, a development that led some of the officers to sustain deep cuts in the head. However, the armed officers showed restraint as they did not hit back.
The demonstrations were organised against the Malawi Police Service (MPS) for its failure to arrest officers who allegedly raped women in M’bwatalika and Mpingu last October during an operation they had following the death of Superintendent Usuman Imedi, who was brutally murdered by protesters.
Kadadzera said those arrested are suspected to have damaged and stolen people’s property along the route they used on their way to Police Headquarters where Deputy Inspector General John Nyondo received the petition on behalf of his boss Duncan Mwapasa.
Some people were arrested at Area 18 for breaking into shops and throwing stones at the filling station. According to a police report, most of those arrested at the filling station and other areas were drawn from Msundwe the Traditional Authority M’bwatalika.
However, in an apparent to disperse the protesters before reaching their destination, the police at Area 18 threw teargas at protesters.
In the petition, which was delivered at Area 10 traffic lights, less than a kilometre from police headquarters, HRDC has demanded that police management should act within five days to arrest officers who allegedly raped women.
NGO-GCN chairperson Barbara Banda said: “Cognisant that the fact that police has on numerous occasions been conducting endless and protracted investigations on serious human rights abuses, without tangible results, …we hereby petition you that you must immediately arrest culprits…”
Asked to comment on the matter, HRDC vice-chairperson Gift Trapence denied knowledge of any damage of property along the route they used.