Violence in the streets after Malawi officials held

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At LEAST ten former senior Malawian government officials, including cabinet ministers, have been arrested for allegedly plotting to prevent the then vice-president Joyce Banda from assuming power following the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika in April last year.

Those detained yesterday included the former president’s brother, Peter, former information minister Patricia Kaliati and Mutharika’s presidential guard commander Duncan Mwapasa.

The arrests set off violence in the commercial capital, Blantyre, as supporters of the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party took to the streets. Police fired tear gas to break up the demonstration.

Peter Mutharika is the party’s presidential candidate for the next election, scheduled for May 2014. Malawi, one of Africa’s poorest countries, is struggling with high inflation and many people are unhappy with tough economic reforms that are backed by the International Monetary Fund.

Others arrested include the current economic planning and development minister, Goodall Gondwe, who was Mr Mutharika’s finance minister, and chief secretary Bright Msaka, who held the same post in the Mutharika government.

Information minister Moses Kunkuyu said yesterday: “The law enforcement agencies in Malawi are of the strong view that certain criminal offences were committed by certain individuals and as a result arrests have been effected.”

The report into the death of Mr Mutharika, 78, presented to Ms Banda last week, revealed that after Mr Mutharika’s cardiac arrest on 5 April, cabinet ministers and senior officials held secret meetings aimed at preventing her from assuming power as stipulated by the constitution.