Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) yesterday staged a peaceful demonstration on the third day of its planned four-day anti-Jane Ansah protests in Lilongwe.
Unlike on Tuesday and Wednesday when violence and looting marred what were planned to be peaceful demonstrations, yesterday the protest procession was free of violence and vandalism on the designated route.
No police officer was seen in the vicinity of the march. There was no throwing of tear gas.
HRDC member Solomon Phiri hailed the protesters for successfully organising the march yesterday when they marched peacefully for the first time since June when the ‘Ansah Must Fall’ protests were launched nationwide to force the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah for allegedly presiding over a flawed electoral process in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo told protesters on Wednesday that they will never allow Malawi Police Service (MPS) to be part of the security detail during demonstrations allegedly because they provoke protesters.
In an interview, he said: “We had a meeting on Wednesday morning with Lilongwe City Council officials. We told them that police officers should not be available during demonstrations because people don’t want them. As HRDC, we will not allow police officers to be part of security. Our last hope in provision of security is MDF [Malawi Defence Force].”
Yesterday’s protest march started from the usual point, Lilongwe Community Centre ground around 10am and ended at Capital Hill.
HRDC leaders dismissed the crowd after lobbying members of Parliament (MPs) not to confirm the appointment of acting Inspector General (IG) of Police Duncan Mwapasa as IG.
In a telephone interview after the march, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said officers were still on the ground to assess if no violence erupted in the course of the demonstration.
He said: “There was violence reported on Wednesday. Protesters smashed a car belonging to one person. But as of today [Thursday], I can only say that we have not finished our operations.”
On Tuesday, police arrested 20 people for theft and looting of shops in areas outside the designated demonstration route.