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Malawi deployed soldiers on the streets of the capital Lilongwe, commercial city of Blantyre and northern city of Mzuzu on Wednesday after the country’s Supreme Court of Appeal approved a 14-day moratorium against demonstrations being led by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) who want to force Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah to resign.
HRDC were scheduled to start three-day demonstration on Wednesday but after the court order to suspend the protests, they could not take to the streets.
Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers in their armoured vehicles were deployed in the streets and strategically parked from Area 18 Roundabout, where the Lilongwe demonstrations were supposed to start from. There were also police officers.
At Area 10 junction, there were five armoured vehicles and two military trucks stationed and a number of MDF soldiers.
In Blantyre, there were also heavy police presence on the commercial city’s streets amidst fears that some people could have taken to the streets.
Riot police vehicles were strategically positioned in places such as Kamuzu Upper Stadium while the main gates for Chichiri Shopping Centre were closed although business was in progress inside the perimeter.
Police officers in full combat gear were also seen at Northgate mall opposite the Polytechnic among other places.
In Mzuzu, MDF soldiers were also deployed in the streets to enforce the suspension of the demonstrations.
In the northern border district of Karonga, MDF soldiers disbursed people that gathered at Karonga Round after a car went around in the morning mobilising people despite the Supreme Court of Appeal’s order that HRDC should not hold the protests.
The decision by Justice Lovemore Chikopa of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal on Tuesday follows an appeal by Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale against the HRDC after High Court Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda refused to grant the AG an injunction against the protests.
HRDC had sought the court’s relief and applied to start judicial review against Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology Mark Botomani’s statement in which he ordered a stop to the protests, further warning that protesters will be met with force in the streets.
In the Civil Cause Number 75 of 2019, HRDC is the applicant, while Minister of Information, Minister of Homeland Security and Inspector General of Police are first, second and third respondents, respectively.
Justice Charles Mkandawire granted the HRDC an order to start judicial review proceedings and an interlocutory injunction against use of force by law enforcers during demonstrations.
The government defended its position saying that recent protests “had not been peaceful” and had led to “vandalised offices”.Source: Nyasa Times
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