Riot in Lilongwe

Here's a classic SMS that I received today:

Tear gas right outside the bank

Apparently the government has recently decided that vendors have to sell their wares in the market. This means vendors who have previously sold from the street (they sell all sorts of things: pieces of metal, recycled rubber from tires, DVDs, plastic bags, radios, etc) now have to move into the market, and they are not very happy about it.

The site is bad, we have been dumped to a place where not many people are interested to visit and our business may suffer.

What worries me is that the officials cite Zimbabwe as the model for how to do this. (Zimbabwe is led by probably the worst dictator in Africa, he is running his country into the ground, and causing a lot of suffering - one of his recent moves was to bulldoze squatter villages in the name of cleaning up)

Here is a classic Malawian official quote:

We are just acting on humanitarian grounds. We are negotiating with them to move out so when they ask for some favours we need to listen to them because we are not forcing them out. We are working with them to improve the faces of our towns because in the whole Sadc region Malawi has the dirtiest towns and cities but so far the process has gone smoothly and the vendors are very cooperative.

But things aren't going so smoothly and today vendors were rioting. The friendly American embassy sent me an email about "unrest", but despite the teargas Claudia assured me that everything was fine at her office.

Article about the relocations.

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