Local media sources reported that students protested in Lilongwe against ongoing nationwide electricity shortages on Friday, December 8. According to reports, at least 40 students were arrested during the demonstrations. Blackout-related protests are not uncommon in Malawi and more may occur in the coming days, particularly in Lilongwe.
Authorities announced on Thursday, December 7, that many areas of Malawi remain without power following declining water levels at the country’s two principal hydroelectric dams. Officials said recent rainfall was not sufficient to replenish water stores to necessary levels. Officials have not commented on when the situation is expected to improve. Power outages are a common occurrence across Malawi due to the country's reliance on hydropower. Over 90 percent of the country's electricity comes from hydroelectric dams on rivers fed by Lake Malawi. Over the last decade, low annual rainfall has reduced the water levels of Lake Malawi, which has in turn affected the dams’ electricity-generating capacity.
In addition, civil society groups claim that the regular energy shortages are in part due to poor management by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and President Arthur Peter Mutharika.
Individuals in Lilongwe are advised to avoid all protests and demonstrations due to the risk of violence. Should protests occur, individuals are advised to avoid affected areas, to follow all instructions issued by authorities, and to anticipate travel disruptions. In addition, frequent blackouts are likely to continue, and those present in the country are advised to keep battery-operated devices fully charged whenever possible. Traffic signals may not function during power outages; individuals are advised to be particularly cautious when driving or crossing streets during these times.
On a more general note, anyone in or planning travel to Malawi is urged to exercise caution due to the risk of violent crime (including armed robberies, carjackings, and home invasions) and to remain particularly vigilant in urban areas and at sites popular with tourists. Lilongwe's Old Town should be avoided after nightfall.