BLANTYRE, (Reuters) – At least 18 people have been killed in clashes between police and demonstrators during violent nationwide protests against President Bingu wa Mutharika, the Malawian health ministry said yesterday. Spokesman Henry Chimbali confirmed 10 deaths in the northern cities of Karonga and Mzuzu, where protesters angry at chronic fuel shortages and Mutharika’s perceived autocracy ransacked the offices of his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on Wednesday.
The others died in the capital, Lilongwe, and the southern commercial hub of Blantyre after police and troops fired teargas to disperse crowds demanding Mutharika quit as leader of the impoverished nation of 13 million.
“These figures are based on those casualties that are coming through to the hospitals. Some died in hospital while some were brought by police already dead,” Chimbali told Reuters. A further 41 people were injured, six critically, he added.
The bloody crackdown in the normally peaceful former British colony is likely to intensify public anger against Mutharika, a former World Bank economist first elected in 2004, and could destroy his already troubled relationship with the donors who keep his government afloat.
As riot police confronted groups of youths in the capital, Mutharika took to the airwaves to appeal for calm, saying he was happy to hear the grievances of opponents who accuse him of ignoring civil liberties and ruining the economy.