Demonstrations to push for the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah ended in running battles between Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers and some protesters who turned violent across Mzuzu City yesterday.
The protesters were apparently against a peaceful march conducted earlier under the close watch of MDF soldiers after Mlawi Police Service (MPS) stayed away.
Way after the demonstration organisers had officially dispersed the march, a section of the protesters took it upon themselves to cause anarchy in the city.
In their bid to leave a mark on Tuesday’s demonstrations, the protesters torched poultry stalls at Matabwa Market before invading Chibavi Tarven where they looted assorted items, including opaque beer. The protesters consumed the beer within the tarven premises.
MDF soldiers moved in and foiled the protesters’ plans to raid some residential areas in the city.
At this point, the angry rioters were seen engaged in running battles with the soldiers in various locations in the city. MDF deployed more soldiers into the residential areas where they chased the protesters and threatened to deal with them.
The post-protests events were in sharp contrast to the official demonstration which was peaceful. During previous protests, Mzuzu was the epicenter of violent demonstrations that saw several private and public buildings burned down.
During yesterday’s demonstration, MDF soldiers guided the protesters to and from Mzuzu City Council Civic Offices.
At the starting point of the march at Katoto Secondary School ground, some protesters were overheard saying that Lilongwe, which was the centre of ugly scenes yesterday, had outdone them.
The protesters appeared geared to engage in running battles with police at both the Northern Region Police Headquarters and Mzuzu Police Station, but their wishes were not granted as the police were not on the ground. Besides, there was no firing of tear gas associated with previous protests.
In his remarks, Human Rights Defenders Coalition chairperson for the North, Happy Mhango, commended the police for withdrawing and not firing tear gas. He said their conduct facilitated the holding of peaceful protests.
He also hailed MDF for providing security and guiding the protesters to and from the Civic offices.
“It is clear that people respect the soldiers. People lost trust in police and that is why we have seen people demonstrating peacefully,” said Mhango. Northern Region Police spokesperson Peter Kalaya did not pick up his phone when called for his comment.