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gilrls-in-hospital2Bertha and Ella Ndileke, with their mother at Karonga Hospital.
Photo by January Watchman Mvula, 25th July 2011

Report from January Watchman Mvuala, Malawi Correspondent for Safe World,

28th July, 2011

In Malawi, on 20th July, two teenage sisters were shot in their legs while they were cooking supper on the evening of the riots.

Bertha and Ella Ndileke, ages 19 and 17, say they were preparing their supper at 8 pm at their home in Karonga, on July 20th, when they were both shot in the legs by the police.

Safe World's Malawi correspondent, January Watchman Mvula has been visiting the girls in hospital.

Chris Crowstaff asked January about his conversation with the Bertha and Ella.

When did you visit the girls in the hospital?

Friends told me about the shooting incident and I went to visit the girls in hospital on Monday (25th July).

Yesterday (27th July), I returned to the hospital to interview them.

I also spoke with a young man who was present at the scene of the shooting. He assured me that he is a witness to the girls’ story, as are many other people in the neighbourhood.

How do the girls know it was the police who shot at them?

The girls say they have no doubt that they were shot by the police.Girls-father-at-verandaSite of the shooting. The girls' father is standing near the veranda where his daughters were shot.
Photo by January Watchman Mvula

It was only the police who were using guns.

I am told that the same police had visited a house nearby and warned the people to go inside.

“This neighbour saw the police coming towards our house. The police saw us on the veranda of our house and shot us.”

Within the space of five minutes, the neighbour apparently heard the shots and screaming of the girls.

Neighbours say that, while the girls were screaming, they saw the two policemen running away from the house in different directions.

How far is their home from the shopping centre where the riots were taking place?

The house is almost 2 km from where the main shopping centre is, where the riots were taking place. There is nothing which the police can claim they were protecting. The Location is known as Baka village and is over 100 metres from the M1 Road - the Chitipa-Karonga road. The girls were innocent and had not even been taking part in the protests.

Who took them to the hospital?

The neighbour - Mr Muhango - who the police had called on, was the one who ferried the girls to the hospital in his car.

How are the girls feeling? Physically and emotionally?

Both sisters are unable to walk and they could not even stand when they tried to do so.girls-with-motherThe girls with their mother.
Photo by January Watchman Mvula

They are still bleeding heavily and they tell me that they are in great pain. They feel very weak due to the loss of blood.

During the night, the wounds are especially painful.

“We wish the night would not come. Emotionally we are very worried because we no longer feel safe.

If the people who say they are protecting come to our homes and shoot at us under our veranda, then where is the protection?

These scars will remain in our lives for ever, because we feel that we were treated like monkeys in our own country.”


Have the doctors given them any idea of the physical damage - whether they will recover use of their injured legs/feet - and how long will recovery take?

The two sisters say that they don’t know when they will be discharged or recover and they are also worried because they are not given all the medicines they need. The doctors are asking their parents to outsource some of the medicine from a nearby a private hospital.

They are also worried because of the congestion in the hospital which could easily transmit other contagious diseases to them, such as TB.

Can they give any more details of the shooting incident?

“That evening, we were all outside on the veranda of our house, preparing our supper after prayers at our home.

That was around 8 o’clock in the evening. The shooting was not as rampant as it had been during the day time,”  the girls remembered.  

"Then we heard the gunshots, which we thought were elsewhere but when we tried to run into the house we found we were both falling down and we could see blood coming out of our legs like a tap of water.

The next thing we knew, we were in the hospital.”

Are there any other shooting victims in the hospital?

There are many who were shot during the protests, but Bertha and Ella were the only ladies in the hospital who had been shot.


January Watchman Mvula is Executive Director of Sustainable Rural Community Development Organisation (SURCOD) in Malawi - a Safe World Field Partner.

Recent articles by January Watchman Mvula:

Sisters claim they were shot at home by Malawi police

Malawi: Demonstrations, Women and Poverty - Report from the Ground