Mayhem in Malawi … a little too sensational.
The Battle for Balaka … catchy but still too grandiose.
Taxi Tragedy Motivates Mob — yes, that best describes what I have to say.
I don’t yet know the truth about what happened, perhaps the truth will appear in the media or hopefully in a courtroom. For certain a police vehicle struck a bicycle taxi carrying a woman who had her infant wrapped firmly against her back as is customary. I am told the woman and child died “instantly”. I have not heard about the bicycle taxi driver. The accident happened on the paved road that runs through downtown Balaka, just south of the train tracks, not far from the bus stop, for those who know Balaka.
I am told the bodies remained on the road for some time. This is incomprehensible to me. The bystanders should have had all three headed towards a hospital within seconds — there is a clinic less than one kilometer down the road in one direction and a larger hospital not three kilometers in the other direction. I am told the police officer is accused of having a reputation for driving too quickly and without regard for bicycle taxis of which there are dozens in town. It is impossible for me to comment on how the bicycle was being driven or what other traffic conditions might have contributed to the tragedy. And I didn’t see the police officers run from the scene, apparently as a result of being stoned or somehow attacked by a mob.
All this happened prior to 1pm today, when I decided it was time to go to the bank to get some money and perhaps pick up some food in the market. If I had a more substantial vocabulary of Chichewa I might have heard all sorts of comments as I walked, but when I began to cross the main road, I quickly saw that hundreds of people had filled the road about 400 meters west. The police station was 50 meters to the east and I went to the bank, 100 meters north. I returned a few minutes later to see people hurling rocks at the police station — I think police universally take exception to having rocks thrown at their office, not to mention their families live in the back and side yard.
I have some video clips showing the tear-gas wafting down the street and as noted in the title, it does sting the eyes and throat and I wasn’t even close to being directly down wind. Most of the time I was hiding behind a thick brick wall with intermittent glimpses through a second and rather porous brick wall of a restaurant.
I watched uniformed and non-uniformed police fire rifles into the air. I wondered if they considered where the bullets would land? I watched one police officer shoot a canister of gas into the market without any ability to know where it would land; it soon was thrown back out of the market and then again down the street up wind and behind the advancing police.
I also watched a side window of an ambulance burst when it was hit with a rock as it drove past. I captured some of this on video with my BlackBerry and hope to get it uploaded when possible.
Surprising quickly the streets filled again as if nothing had happened. But the sounds of rifle shots and gas being fired continued to the west of the market for probably another hour.
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