Riot police break up protest against IMF, World Bank in Malawi
LILONGWE, May 15 (AFP) - Riot police fired teargas to break up a peaceful demonstration of about 30 people against draconian economic reform policies imposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The protest was dispersed just an hour before President Bakili Muluzi was due to open a two-day consultative group meeting of Malawi and its western donors.
Two protesters were arrested, according to co-organizer Shyley Kondowe, a human rights activist.
The demonstrators carried placards denouncing the two institutions, which back tough economic reforms for the impoverished southern African state. Kondowe told AFP the police had been over-zealous, noting that he had permission from police inspector-general Bernard Mphinji to stage the peaceful demonstration.
"There was no need for police to intervene," he said.
He said however that the protesters got across their message because Muluzi read their placards as he passed them on his way to open the conference at the 100 million dollar State House built by former dictator Kamuzu Banda. One of placards read "World Bank/IMF change policies and look for alternatives, SAPs kill the poor man." SAPs are structural adjustment programmes.
Muluzi, who has in the past criticized World Bank and IMF policies for Malawi's economic ills, ironically defended the policies of the two institutions on Monday.
"I remain convinced that the World Bank and the IMF mean well and are genuinely interested in assisting poor nations," he said.
Muluzi said he was also convinced the two institutions "have no wish to continue to be constantly criticized and blamed for the adverse side effects of some of the policies in the developing world."