Malawi president calls for clam amid continued riots

08:56, July 22, 2011      

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Malawi President Bingu Mutharika on Thursday appealed to the opposition and civil society organizations to come forward for a dialogue rather than going into the streets.

The president made the remarks during his State of the Nation Address on Thursday afternoon, as more riots were seen in the capital Lilongwe where more shops were looted.

In the address beamed on the state controlled broadcaster Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, Mutharika condemned the Wednesday riots where property, houses, vehicles and lives were lost.

He said it was very sad that some innocent people lost their lives.

"I know all the perpetrators of yesterday's riots and as the state president of this country I have the responsibility of bringing them to book," he said.

"It would be better if the opposition and the civil society organizations came forward for a dialogue," he added.

Mutharika accused the opposition and the civil society organization leaders of fuelling the riots by hiring the rioters to cause havoc in the cities.

Riots continued Thursday in many parts of the country. Uniformed and heavily armed Malawi Defense Force officers could be spotted in some locations where the riots were evident.

President Mutharika is expected to respond to the petition delivered Wednesday by the civil society organizations and the opposition through the city and town councils.

Local media quoted the country's health ministry as saying that nine people have died in Wednesday's riots among whom were two police officers killed in Mzuzu city by angry protesters.

The civil society in Malawi had planned to take to the streets in peaceful protest against what they call economic hardships and was granted by Mutharika on Monday. However a court injunction obtained by a lawyer early Wednesday denied the legitimacy of the demonstration.

Protesters rushed into streets in major cities early in the morning on Wednesday and clashed with police.

The injunction was lifted Wednesday afternoon when all demonstrators successfully presented their petitions to the president. However, the riots carried on Thursday when demonstration became robbery and other form of violence.

ZODIAK, a Malawi local radio said civil society organizations have called on the nation to be calm and the Malawi police has described the behavior of some misguided demonstrators as barbaric and condemned such acts in its strongest terms.

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