Police in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe arrested 76 people Wednesday who were protesting against the judicial system’s slow processing of corruption cases and the high cost of living.
Law enforcement officers fired teargas at the demonstrators, who defied a court order to stop the rally.
The High Court of Malawi granted an injunction Tuesday sought by the Malawian business community that stops people from holding demonstrations.
But protesters, angered by the court’s decision, mobilized and started marching.
Thousands took to the streets and burned vehicle tires, threw stones at motorists and looted shops.
Demonstrators chanted anti-government songs and demanded President Lazarus Chakwera to take action against unfair sentences handed down by the judiciary, especially against the poor.
“A number of shops in town and residential areas were looted, but we are yet to assess the extent of the damage,” said police spokesman Hastings Chigalu.
Four leaders of the Human Rights Ambassadors group were arrested for inciting violence, unlawful assembly and contempt of court, according to Chigalu.
The group organized protests against what they called “selective justice” by the judiciary and demanded Chakwera’s resignation.
It accuses the president of not dealing with the high cost of living and corruption.
Chakwera, a preacher-turned-politician, came to power in 2020 on the promise of “clearing the rubble” of corruption in government.
The Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) said it is monitoring the events.
“A court order has stopped the demonstrations, but still we are keenly following the emerging issues through media, and we are currently working with relevant authorities to establish the facts,” said spokeswoman Kate Kujaliwa.
Rights activist Kingsley Mpaso said the group is working to vacate the injunction against the demonstrations.