Two Malawians die as Joyce Banda campaign rally turns violent

President Joyce Banda in a December 12, 2013 photo. She faces Malawian voters on May 20, 2014. PHOTO | FILE 

Two people were killed in political violence on Sunday in Malawi's Thyolo district in the aftermath of a political rally attended by President Joyce Banda.

In a statement from their headquarters at Lilongwe, Malawian police confirmed the deaths of one civilian and a police officer.

The statement said the police shot in self defence after violence erupted between suspected supporters of the ruling People's Party and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.

President Banda took her campaign to Goliati village, the home of one of her biggest rivals Peter Mutharika, the brother of former President late Bingu wa Mutharika.

There is political bad blood between the Mutharikas and President Banda following her expulsion from the then ruling party, and subsequent attempts to prevent her ascending to power following Bingu was Mutharika's death in 2012.

Goliati villagers were said to have been incensed by attacks by orators at the rally who said the Mutharikas had failed to develop the area despite being in positions of influence.

Peter Mutharika is a member of parliament.

The crowd went on to interrupt President Banda's speech on a number of occasions.

President Banda, who avoided referring to the two brothers, did not however mention the earlier utterances by her supporters, instead urging tolerance in her remarks.

After she left the area, the agitated villagers started pelting her supporters with stones, injuring scores and damaging vehicles.

In a bid to quell the situation, a policeman shot at them, killing one. The angry villagers are then reported to have lynched the officer.

Malawians on social media platforms have roundly condemned the incident, calling for political tolerance and clean campaigns.

Many have called issue based politics in the forthcoming elections saying politics of insults have failed to develop the country for the past 50 years.

The country holds closely-contested general elections on May 20.

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