Malawi (Security threat level - 3): As of 23 August 2019, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) is expected to move forward with plans to stage protests at all ports of entry in Malawi from 26-30 August. According to organizers, demonstrations will take place on the roads near Lilongwe’s Kamuzu International Airport (FWKI /LLW) and Blantyre’s Chileka International Airport (FWCL/BLZ), as well as near the Karonga, Mchinji, Mwanza and Netcheu border crossings. In a press conference on the morning of 23 August, officials with the Ministry of Homeland Security stated that all of Malawi’s airports and land borders will remain open and operational despite the anticipated HRDC demonstrations.
In response to the upcoming protest actions, the U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe issued a Demonstration Alert on 22 August noting that traffic delays and disruptions along roads leading to airports and border posts should be expected during the demonstrations. In the alert, the embassy urges the “U.S. citizen community to avoid travel in and out of Malawi throughout the week of August 26 – August 30, 2019.” The embassy further recommends that individuals “strongly consider” re-scheduling flights in and out of the country from 26-30 August.
Meanwhile, on 21 August President Mutharika ordered security personnel to crack down on protesters and warned that attempts to close borders would be met with “necessary force.” The Malawi Defense Force (MDF) and the Malawi Police Service (MPS) will deploy additional personnel to all protest sites to prevent disruptions during the scheduled protests. The HRDC has organized the demonstrations as part of ongoing protests against the management and results of the May 2019 general election, during which Mutharika was reelected to a second term.
Analyst Comment: Past HRDC protests have escalated into violence, including vandalism and looting by protesters and the use of tear gas and rubber bullets by police officers. Mutharika’s directive to security personnel indicates a higher likelihood of clashes during the upcoming protest actions.