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Friday, 14 December, 2001, 17:39 GMT
Malawi student death sparks clashes
Students in blantyre
The polytechnic students are angry with the police
By Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre

Malawi's commercial capital, Blantyre, erupted in violence as students from the Polytechnic, ran riot following the death of a fellow student who was shot by police on Tuesday.

Salin Nyakuleya, administrator of Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, told BBC News Online the student, Fanikiso Phiri - a third-year Bachelor of Education student at Chancellor College - died early on Friday.

This is our country but the police and Muluzi have destroyed it

Student song
He said doctors had failed to dislodge a bullet that had ruptured his lung.

Students at the Polytechnic reacted violently when the news of Phiri's death broke. They mobilised themselves into gangs and started chanting anti-government songs and throwing stones at vehicles.

Trouble begun on Tuesday when the students joined street protests against increases in maize prices, the death in police custody of Malawi's reggae king Evison Matafale and the arrest of an opposition Nelson Shaba.


The main highway in the city, Chipembere Highway, was closed as the students used boulders and tree branches to block it.

Police, whose southern region headquarters borders the college, fired several rounds of teargas to disperse the students. They managed to secure the road but the students regrouped on the campus.

Running battles between the two sides ensued as the students chanted anti-government songs and pelted police with stones and tree branches.

Police in Blantyre
Police have been securing main roads

"This is our country but the police and Muluzi have destroyed it," sang the students using a 1915 revolutionary song which natives composed during an uprising against British colonialists.

"Policemen, prepare to pay the bill for the blood you spill," went another song.

Two students were briefly detained.

'Heavy hand'

Themba Kalua, President of the University of Malawi Student Union, said students were angry with the death.

He said they were demanding an explanation from the University Chancellor, President Bakili Muluzi, Minister of Home Affairs Monjeza Maluza and Inspector General of Police Joseph Aironi on why police had to use live bullets in quelling the student demonstration.

Police were not excessive

Joseph Aironi
Police chief
"We want justice to be done," he said. "We want the perpetrators of this to be taken to book by whatever means."

David Rubadiri, vice chancellor of the University of Malawi, concurred, saying the death of Phiri need to be investigated.

"We are hurt by the death of Phiri; we believe the arm of law and order used a very heavy hand in quelling the demonstrations," he said.

'No stones'

Inspector General of Police Joseph Aironi said he has ordered an inquiry into events that led police to open fire on students at Chancellor College on Tuesday.

Deceased Malawian musician Evison Matafale and his 5-year old daughter
Musician Matafale died in police custody
He, however, said the students were pelting police with stones and attacked a lady superintendent.

"Police were not excessive; we were not trained to respond with stones when we are being attacked, in fact our armoury does not have stones," he said.

Mr Aironi, known for his tough approach to law enforcement, said the students wanted to rape the police officer.

Trouble begun on Tuesday when the students joined street demonstrations protesting at increases in maize prices, the death in police custody of Malawi's reggae king Evison Matafale and the arrest of the opposition National Democratic Alliance leader, Nelson Wilfred Shaba.

See also:

12 Dec 01 | Africa
Malawi police shoot protesters
11 Dec 01 | Africa
Letter-writer arrested in Malawi
20 Nov 01 | Africa
Malawi's prisoners back judges
19 Nov 01 | Africa
Malawi donors suspend aid
26 Mar 01 | Africa
'Coup plot' foiled in Malawi
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Malawi
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