Several killed in Malawi riots

Bingu wa Mutharika vowed to eradicate hunger and corruption in the impoverished southern African country after he was sworn in, but the opposition boycotted the ceremony to protest the results of the elections.

Opposition leader Gwanda Chakuamba earlier claimed 11 people were shot dead when riots broke out in three townships on Sunday after police stopped his supporters from attending a rally during which he was to speak.

There was no independent confirmation of any of the deaths, and police refused to confirm them, saying only that an investigation had begun.

At the ceremony, attended by several African heads of state, Mutharika pledged to make Malawi “hunger-free and prosperous”.

“Economic instability has been caused by our own inability to reduce public expenditure,” he said.

“We will be taking drastic measures to win the war on poverty. Government spending will be audited by independent auditors,” Mutharika said as presidents Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique looked on.

But his promises were overshadowed by the allegations of violence and the opposition boycott of Malawi’s third free polls, won by the handpicked successor of Bakili Muluzi, who reluctantly stepped down after two terms.

International observers, among them some from the European Union, have already said the vote was marred by “serious shortcomings.”

Most schools and businesses were closed on Monday as residents feared more violence after Sunday’s riots.

Police shut down a private radio station and arrested four journalists for interviewing an opposition spokesman who threatened to call on the army to “take over” if Mutharika was declared president.

The ruling party’s offices in Chitawira township were torched as opposition supporters put up barricades.

Chakuamba’s seven-party Mgwirizano, or Unity Coalition has rejected the outcome of the polls.

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