Malawi – ‘Vampire’ Attacks Reflect Healthcare Tensions

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Economic woes and unhappiness with healthcare have contributed to the panic in the southern part of the country, says a leading clinical psychologist.

Ten people have been killed and others attacked in October over accusations of blood sucking in Malawi. Police have made some 200 arrests of those allegedly involved in mob justice.

“It’s a reflection of the way the country looks at things and makes sense of tensions and economic pressures,” Dr. Chiwoza Bandawe, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Malawi in Blantyre told RFI.

The first blood sucking accusations in Malawi occurred in 1948 and 1949, according to Catholic University lecturer Sangwani Tembo, who spoke at the university on this issue on October 27th.

While marginalised people, including widows, are typical scapegoats, accusations have been placed on the population at large, including doctors.

“It’s also about trying to make sense of the western-type medical profession vis-à-vis traditional medicines, and of course the western type has the power now, and all this contributes to the tension,” says Dr Bandawe.

“I think at some point also there’s been some dissatisfaction with the health system itself, because it has been under-resourced,” he says, adding that some stories have emerged where healthcare workers abused patients.

Medical practitioners are frequently on the receiving end of abuse, especially in the rural areas, says Dr. Amos Nyaka, the head of the Malawi Society for Medical Doctors in Lilongwe.

Lack of education comes into play as well, says Chitawira-based Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) Director Vincent Hango.

1031 mulanje children
Schoolchildren in Mulanje – CC 2010

“We have a good number of people who are illiterate. They believe in witchcraft. It’s very difficult to change their beliefs because this is what they have believed since they were born,” he says.

The government has enforced security in affected areas, but many feel that it should have taken a stauncher response, reassuring those who felt threatened by the wave of violence.

“As a country I think we’re very ashamed,” says Dr Nyaka, adding that the Malawi Society of Medical Doctors “will take this as a challenge to communicate to our people and to reassure them that they are not blood suckers.”

Malawi will from November 1st host a three-day high-level meeting on promoting policy coherence on health technology innovation and access for the African Regional Intellectual Property Office (ARIPO), said Malawi News Agency.

The meeting brings together a range of leaders, policymakers and institutions including representatives from Ministries of Trade, Health and Justice, civil society, international experts and academics.

Minister of Health Atupele Muluzi has said Malawi and many of the 18 ARIPO member states have made great strides in improving public health and by consequence, human development outcomes in recent years.

He said that despite significant progress, the burden of infectious diseases, particularly HIV, malaria and Tuberculosis pose a threat to public health.

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Samuel Tembenu said the meeting comes at a time when countries around the world are pursuing various means to ensure availability and access to medicines for their citizens.

The meeting aims at providing a forum for ARIPO countries to exchange views and to share experiences on best practices that promote availability and access to affordable health coverage, Tembenu added.

The high-level meeting has been jointly organised by the Malawi government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Malawi – Refugee Clashes Deplored
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 54, Issue 6, pp. 21458C

HEALTH: Malaria
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 54, Issue 4, pp. 21416A–21417C

MALAWI: High Future Growth?
Economic, Financial and Technical series
Vol. 54, Issue 5, pp. 21707A–21707C

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DR Congo – Kasai Bloodshed

Investigators unearth more mass graves as concern grows over further escalation.

On April 19th the United Nations (UN) said it had found a further 17 mass graves raising the total number known to 40. Fifteen graves were found in Tshimbulu town and two in Tshienke

Earlier on March 22nd, UN investigators counted 10 mass graves connected with the conflict between security forces and militias, at a cost of at least 400 lives. Seven were found in Demba town, with three in Tshimbulu.

Further, the UN said on April 21st that more than one million people had been displaced in the region over the last eight months. This is alongside violence in North and South Kivu, which has led a further two million to be displaced.

Fighting erupted in Kasai after government forces last August killed tribal chief Jean Pierre Mpandi, aka Kamwina Nsapu, who had launched an uprising against the government of President Joseph Kabila.

Further, two UN researchers, American Michael Sharp and Swedish-Chilean dual national Zaida Catalan, were kidnapped on March 12th with four Congolese nationals. Their bodies were found in a grave 16 days later.

Chief military prosecutor, Major General Joseph Ponde, said two men had been arrested for allegedly killing the UN experts. The remaining suspect was being interrogated in Kananga, capital of Kasai.

The Kamwina Nsapu militia “is increasingly taking violent and hostile action against anyone it sees as being outsiders, interfering in the Kasai,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.


Resentment of Kabila’s administration runs deep in the region, which had overwhelmingly supported opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi in the 2011 election. Before he was killed, Mpandi had called on his militia to fight anyone representing the government, posting an audio appeal online for the “liberation of Congo”.

On March 28th, 39 police were killed in an ambush by rebels in Kasai and buried in a mass grave around 75km north of Tshikapa. The police had been travelling in two army transport trucks, with substantial equipment, which was taken by the rebels.

Jordan Anderson, Africa analyst for IHS Markit, cited reports that all 39 had been beheaded.

Suspected militia fighters also reportedly decapitated two soldiers on the outskirts of the Kananga airport, and have managed to release scores of prisoners from jail in Luebo area. Some escapees are seen as highly dangerous and could contribute to worsening the situation in the already embattled region.

(© AFP 28, 30, 31/3, 4, 14, 21/4 2017; BBC Monitoring 3, 11/4; Radio Okapi 9, 11/4)

Find out more the Africa Research Bulletin:

DR CONGO: Concern over Rights Abuses
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 2, Pp. 21328B–21329A

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Bloody Christmas [Free to Read]
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21258A–21258C

DR CONGO: Targeted Attacks on Press
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 11, Pp. 21217B–21218A

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Cameroon – Protests Continue


The tensions between Anglophone and Francophone regions may be a sign of deeper problems.

Three activists are currently in detainment in Cameroon with their trials suspended, following a crackdown on anglophone protests. Agbor Balla, Fontem Neba and Mancho Bibissi are among another 100 arrested, charged with sabotage, terrorism and inciting secessionism and civil war – charges that could carry the death penalty.

The Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium has also been banned since protests in mid-November 2016 and many local independent media outlets have been shut down. The protest action was marked by violent clashes between youths and the police.

Additionally in the northwest and southwest areas the internet has been shut off completely for over a month; according to reports the decision is expected to have cost the country in the region of US$1.39bn.

The tensions in the anglophone and francophone regions revolve around perceptions that the constitution contains bilingual principles but that these are not being respected or implemented satisfactorily. The Anglophone regions speak of a sense that they are forced to assimilate to accept what is dictated by the Francophone majority. During the colonial period Cameroon was ruled as two separate territories by both France and Britain.

Others, while recognising the historical trajectory, also state that the unrest is symptomatic of larger government problems, particularly surrounding corruption. For a lengthy period many groups in the north have complained of marginalisation and the lack of state presence.

There have been attempts at implementing a federal-type system to devolve some power to Anglophone courts and administrations, but these have reportedly been undermined by irresponsibility and corruption. The government initially argued that the Anglophone protestors were secessionists and did not acknowledge their legitimate claims.

Renowned Cameroonian scholar Achille Mbembe points out that the claims by Anglophones started as linguistic and cultural but have become far more political. ‘They don’t feel there is a place for them in this centralised state,’ said Mbembe.

There are different opinions concerning the scale support for Anglophones during the protest; some suggest that Francophone Cameroonians supported calls by trade unions and students. However other views have suggested that a ‘genocide’ is being planned and reject secessionist claims.

To date the international community has expressed little reaction and the African Union (AU) has not been involved in any efforts to resolve the situation, apart from one statement expressing concern. The President Paul Biya is also to stand for re-election next year, although the expectation is that he will secure another mandate, despite the growing discontent.

Institute for Security Studies (ISS)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

CAMEROON: Linguistic Tensions
Political, Social & Cultural Series,
Vol. 54, Issue. 1, Pp. 21289A–21289C

CAMEROON: Anglophone Unrest [Free to Read]
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21257A–21257B

CAMEROON: Rights Violations
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 7, Pp. 21074A–21074B

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Central African Republic – Fragile Peace


Outbreaks of violence are threatening to further destabilise the situation, as reports show that thousands of schools are closed by rebels.

On October 15th at least 11 people were killed and 10 more wounded at a camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) in Ngakobo, according to the United Nations (UN) Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).

This recent attack came only a few days after the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels attacked civilians and peacekeepers in the town of Kaga Bandoro, leading to the deaths of 30 people and 57 more injured.

These recent incidents are of great concern and there are worries that it will spark a return to widespread atrocities. In February elections brought President Faustin Touadera to power, but the government still largely relies on the UN for support. Since the outbreak of violence in 2013, after the Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize, one in ten of the population of 4.5m have been left displaced.

These recent incidents also come as France is planning to pull the majority of its remaining 350 troops from the country, reported Deutschewelle.

According to the UN MINUSCA mission chief, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, “there is, today, no legitimate reason for any armed group to use weapons…the people have suffered enough and are tired of this war that has lasted too long.”

Reports also recently emerged of armed men who attacked a secondary school during teacher training, killing three teachers, a director of an educational centre and the vice-president of a parents association. UNICEF representative in CAR, Mohamed Malick Fall, said, “we are deeply shocked by these developments and saddened that teachers have been targeted,” reported Al-Jazeera.

Across the country around one in five primary schools are closed, leaving around a third of children in the country not in school. This is largely due to armed groups who are occupying schools and preventing access.

While in the capital Bangui some children have been able to return, in the surrounding area as many as 10,000 students were unable to start term. “Schools are not part of the conflict, they have no political affiliation,” said Donaig Le Du, chief of communications for UNICEF in CAR, reported Reuters.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21146B–21146C

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Disarmament and Reintegration Efforts
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 8, Pp. 21108C–21109B

Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 7, Pp. 21074B–21075A

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Zambia – Xenophobic Violence


Spate of ritual killings leads to retaliatory attacks directed largely at foreign nationals in the region.

On April 7th a murder was reported in the capital Lusaka’s Matero constituency, the body showing signs of mutilation, with the heart and genital area removed. This incident marked the sixth case in a growing number of suspected ritual murders, reported Zambia Reports.

Over a week later, on April 18th, security services claimed they had arrested four people in connection with the attacks, with reports suggesting they may have been found with body parts. President Edgar Lungu commented that the motivations were surely something outside of the national Christian religion, reported Zambia Reports.

On the same day, in protest against the killings, locals looted shops in Zingalume, George and Matero townships; residents accused foreigners of being behind the six killings in the Zingalume area. Police spokesperson Charity Chanda confirmed that houses and shops belonging to foreigners had been destroyed and looted, reported the Times of Zambia.

In Chawama residents took to the streets in protest demanding that the government facilitate the deportation of foreigners in the area, particularly Rwandan nationals who are widely accused of involvement.

On April 19th the East African stated that as many as 200 people had been arrested in Lusaka during the protests. The most affected areas include George, Lilanda, Chunga and Zingalume in the west, and parts of Matero, Chaisa, Kabanana, Mandevu and Chipata in the north.

By April 20th as many as 62 shops had been looted and the figure of arrestees in connection to the violence had risen to 256.



The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Country Representative Ms Laura Lo Castro said, “we would like to urge Zambians to continue maintaining the unblemished high reputation, respected by the international community, of being hospitable to foreigners, including refugees,” reported the Herald.

Around 20 Rwandan nationals had approached the Rwandan High Commission in Lusaka for protection after the spate of xenophobic attacks, claimed Rwandan New Times.

The Rwanda High Commission’s interventions advised Rwandans in Lusaka that once threatened they should go to the nearest Police Station for safety but remain alert and avoid unnecessary movements; advising nationals to strictly abide and observe the national laws of the host country.

According to the Times of Zambia the recent levels of xenophobic violence are some of the worst since independence, with violence against Rwandans, Lebanese and Chinese residents on the rise. Analysts have also suggested that foreigners are usually engaged in business in Lusaka and have a higher financial status than many locals; the protests and riots were reportedly more common in the shanty towns than middle and higher class neighbourhoods.

According to the Minister of Disaster Preparedness and Refugee Affairs Seraphine Mukantabana, there are over 10,000 Rwandan refugees in Zambia, mainly those who fled the 1994 Genocide. The Rwandan government has been attempting to lure some of those refugees back, by demonstrating the progress the country has made.

However, a majority of Rwandans in Zambia remain there for “economic reasons” with over 6,500 Rwandans running businesses in the capital Lusaka, reported the East African. On April 24th 13 Rwandans were flown out of Zambia after loosing property and lifetime savings in the attacks.

Charge d’Affaires at the High Commission of Rwanda in Zambia, Abel Buhungu, said on April 24th that the situation had calmed slightly as security forces were deployed in restive suburbs.

Find out more in the African Research Bulletin:

Zambia – Politician Arrested
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.3, Pp.20930B

ZAMBIA: Election Date
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.1, Pp.20851A–20851C

SOUTH AFRICA: Xenophobic Violence
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.4, Pp.20524C–20526A

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Mozambique – Political Violence Resumes


Concerns over increased violence as rebel leader announces a bid to take over six provinces.

According to reports on January 14th many hundreds of refugees are fleeing across the Malawian border, describing how Mozambican government forces are driving people from their homes in the search for supporters of the Renamo armed opposition and their leader Afonso Dhlakama.

Dhlakama recently on December 16th stated his claim to claim six provinces in the  central and northern parts of the country, reigniting fears of a restart in the violence which ended 24 years ago. He claimed to have backing of public support and said he would retaliate if the government opposed him, reported News24. 

“The soldiers came in government vehicles to burn houses and maize barns and accused us of sheltering Renamo soldiers,” farmer Omali Ibrahim said as he was arriving at the Kapise refugee camp in Malawi’s southern district of Mwanza. The camp now houses over 1,500 people compared with 300 in June last year.

Dhlakama was the leader of Renamo during a 16-year civil war which ended in 1992, and he has refused to accept the results of a 2014 election, in which he was beaten by President Filipe Nyusi of the Frelimo party.

According to reports violence in the villages of Zobue and Moatize in Tete province is driving refugees across the border into Malawi. Senior Official in the Malawian Ministry of Home Affairs, Bestone Chisamile, said that the influx is a “big problem”. Medecin Sans Frontieres (MSF) and the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) are providing support at the Kapise camp.


President Nyusi – CC 2014.

Earlier in December Renamo had called for international mediation between itself and the Mozambican government. Renamo spokesperson Antonio Muchanga said that new proposed mediators – South African President Jacob Zuma and figures from the Roman Catholic Church – are to be in place of the previous Mozambican mediators.

According to reports, the specific details of the Catholic Church officials were not detailed, but it was suggested that they responded promptly to the request by Renamo, and there were also signs that Zuma had accepted the invitation, reported Mozambican state owned media AIM.

Muchanga blamed the Mozambican mediators for failure of past dialogue, which began in April 2013. although it was Dhlakama who was to cease dialogue in August 2015. President Nyusi has stated that he wants face to face talks and is not interested in mediators.

Renamo has refused to disarm on disband its armed militia, as was stipulated in an agreement on the cessation of hostilities, signed on September 5th 2014.

Muchanga also denied that Renamo gunmen are defecting to the government; reports have suggested a steady trickle of former Renamo fighters asking to join the army or police, or seeking military pensions promised by the government, reported AIM.

According to Malawian media Nyasa Times, Mozambique is to blame for a rise in the influx of guns in Malawi, and there are concerns that violence, particularly in Tete province, could spill over the border.

Other reports from Mozambican state-owned AIM claimed that Renamo are responsible for the abduction of Frelimo officials in six districts of Sofala province. The districts cited were Gorongosa, Maríngue, Cheringoma, Chemba, Muanza, Nhamatanda and Chibabava.

Reports, which could not be independently confirmed, claimed that on on December 11th Renamo kidnapped the First Sectretary of a Frelimo committee in Muanza, whose whereabouts are still unknown. On January 5th Renamo kidnapped a Frelimo First secretary in Bededo locality of Nhamatanda. Other reports suggested that ten schools in Tete province, near the Malawian border, remain closed since they were shut down by Renamo rebels in June 2015.

Africa Confidential recently commented that President Nyusi is likely to face one of his most difficult years yet, with the country at a crossroads between stability and prosperity, and conflict and economic crisis.

Mozambique relies heavily on foreign aid, for around a quarter of its US$4.92 billion budget, alongside International Monetary Fund (IMF) emergency finance, which is conditional on unpopular austerity measures. There are also concerns that Nyusi may be facing opposition from within his Frelimo party.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin today

Mozambique: Shootouts & Blockades
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, No.10, Pp.20756A–20756B

Mozambique: Renamo Drags its Heels
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, No.4, Pp. 20543B

Mozambique: Calm After the Storm
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, No.2, Pp. 20458C–20459A

Mozambique: Frelimo Government
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, No.1, Pp. 20419B–20420B

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