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Monday, 17 February, 2003, 13:45 GMT
Malawi bans 'third term' protest
President Bakili Muluzi
Muluzi is due to step down next year
The Malawi Government has obtained a court order against a demonstration planned for Monday.

The Forum for the Defence of the Constitution (FDC) was organising protests against government attempts to change the constitution to allow President Bakili Muluzi to stand for re-election next year.

The people of Malawi have the constitutional right to stage a demonstration but that right has to be balanced with other considerations

Justice Minister Henry Phoya
Last month, the government withdrew a bill from parliament in the face of widespread opposition.

Shortly afterwards, there were clashes between pro- and anti-third term groups and the government says it obtained the injunction because of security concerns.

Justice Minister Henry Phoya refused to give details of the security concerns but said they had been given to the court.

Last year, the courts allowed anti-third term protests to proceed, despite a ban by Mr Muluzi.

Donor concern

Mr Phoya admitted that those protests had been peaceful but said that circumstances had changed since then.

"The people of Malawi have the constitutional right to stage a demonstration but that right has to be balanced with other considerations."

Malawi police
The police warned that protests might turn violent

He denied that the court order had been sought to undermine the political opposition and said that the majority of Malawians support attempts to change the constitution.

In last month's clashes, students set fire to the offices of Mr Muluzi's ruling United Democratic Front party.

Two opposition MPs fled their homes after claiming they had been attacked by government supporters.

Police also had to intervene in parliament to prevent fights breaking out between rival MPs after the bill was withdrawn.

A similar bill was narrowly defeated in July last year.

Unless the constitution is changed, Mr Muluzi is due to step down in 2004, when he is due to finish his second term in office.

Donors have expressed concern at the amount of time and energy the government is expending on changing the constitution at a time when millions of Malawians are facing food shortages.

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Malawi's Justice Minister, Henry Phoya
"There were valid security concerns"
See also:

29 Jan 03 | Africa
10 Sep 02 | Africa
05 Jul 02 | Africa
15 Oct 02 | Country profiles
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