ALL AFRICA REPORT: Lilongwe — The Malawian authorities must immediately launch an independent investigation into the deaths of at least eighteen people shot by security forces during demonstrations that erupted into violence in the northern city of Mzuzu, Amnesty International has said.
At least 44 other people, including six children, are being treated for gunshot wounds at Mzuzu Central Hospital following Wednesday's unrest. Among the injured children are three 13 years-olds, two girls and a boy.
"The Malawian authorities must immediately launch an independent, impartial and thorough investigation into their use of firearms resulting in these killings", said Erwin var der Borght, Amnesty International's Director for Africa.
"When the police use firearms, they must minimize injury, and respect human life. If there's reasonable suspicion that they have shot people arbitrarily, the suspects must be brought to justice in a fair trial", he added.
Demonstrations over fuel shortages and repressive laws recently passed by parliament turned violent as hundreds of angry youths clashed with police in towns and cities across the country on Wednesday.
Meanwhile in a statement released on July 21, the Bishops of Malawi declared that they are "deeply concerned about the turn of events regarding the demonstrations on 20 July". On that day a national protest demonstration had been called which involved the major cities of the Country .The situation, however, degenerated in various cities, shops were ransacked and bloody clashes with security forces occurred.
The Episcopal Conference of Malawi asked the government to "open a clear line of dialogue with all stakeholders; to listen carefully and honestly to the suffering of the people; to safeguard lives and property of people and to do it in a professional manner".In their message, the Bishops ask "the demonstrators, Catholics and all people of good will, to immediately stop all forms of violence and ransacking, to remember that we are all created in God's image, to refrain from any form of violent language and to create space for genuine and reasonable dialogue".
"Let us pray that peace and calm that have marked Malawi as a nation, continue to prevail and that everyone can be instrument of this peace" concludes the Bishops' message.
The message was read by Rt Rev Joseph Mukasa Zuza, bishop of Mzuzu and the Chairman of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi.