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Updated Mar 12, 2020

The police fired teargas and violently dispersed protesters outside the police station in the Malawian capital Lilongwe on Tuesday, March 11, after the head of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition, Timothy Mtambo, had voluntarily turned himself in. Mtambo and the coalition have been spearheading mass demonstrations against President Peter Mutharika, who narrowly won re-election in May 2019. The results of that election were overturned by the Malawian Supreme Court in February 2020 due to widespread irregularities at polling stations. Mtambo’s arrest comes after two of his colleagues, Gift Trapence and Reverend MacDonald Sembereka, were detained by police on Sunday.


Why It Matters

Malawi’s annulment of the presidential election due to discrepancies was a major victory for pro-democracy activists, both in Malawi and elsewhere in Southern Africa. It was a clear signal that Africans deserve efficient, fair, and reliable elections like the rest of the liberal democratic world, but the harsh response from the Mutharika administration has analysts and civilians in Malawi worried that the country could slide back into an authoritarian regime reminiscent of the presidency of Mutharika’s brother, Bingu wa Mutharika, or of Joyce Banda, who ruled for more than thirty years.

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