Malawi report says 19 killed, 58 shot in protests

LILONGWE, (Reuters) – Malawi police killed 19 unarmed  citizens and shot 58 others during protests in July, the  government’s rights body said yesterday, in the first official  report on unprecedented rallies against President Bingu wa  Mutharika’s government.

The Human Rights Commission report was released as the  country braced for more protests later this week that have  raised fears of fresh violence.

The report accused the ruling Democratic Progressive Party  and state controlled media of inciting violence ahead of the  July demonstrations.

“Police did not effectively perform their role … They  even failed to meet the threshold set out in the Police Act as  they disproportionately used firearms, contravened the  provisions of the Act and other relevant provisions,” the  commission said.

Opposition groups have given the president a Wednesday   deadline to listen to their demands, promising more protests if  he does not address the chronic poverty that has ensnared most  of the southern African country’s 13 million people.

Mutharika, a former World Bank economist, has seen his  country lose close to $1 billion in foreign aid after donors  objected to the violent crackdown on the rallies.

Britain also suspended aid after Malawi expelled its  ambassador during a diplomatic spat.

Mutharika has warned there could be more bloodshed if  protests go ahead. The army said at the weekend it plans to step  in if violence flares.

“This is the role of the police, but we will be deployed to  protect people and property if things get out of hand,” army  deputy spokesman Major Kakhuta said.

The aid freeze has left a yawning hole in the budget of a  country reliant on handouts for 40 percent of its revenues, and  intensified a dollar shortage that this week saw the government  devalue its kwacha currency by 10 percent to 165 against the  U.S. dollar.

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