Prince Harry will "insult" Malawians if he fails to meet with civil society figures after shaking hands with the country’s controversial president next week, a senior human rights activists said.
The Duke of Sussex will arrive in Malawi on Tuesday, where he will meet President Peter Mutharika and pay tribute to Guardsman Mathew Talbot, a British soldier who was killed by an elephant while taking part in counter poaching operations in May.
Mr Mutharika is currently facing down a wave of anti-government protests following a disputed election that his opponents say he rigged, and has been accused of turning a blind eye to violence by his supporters.
"It is an obligation for the Duke to visit countries. What is currently happening in Malawi needs the attention of the international community, and his presence might bring that," said MacDonald Sembereka, a clergyman who has led a series of protests demanding the resignation of electoral officials.
"But if he is just coming to greet the president without seeing the aggrieved parties, that is tantamount to an insult to Malawaians," he added.
Mr Mutharika, who leads the Democratic People’s Party, secured a second five-year term with 38.57% of the vote in the election on May 21. But Lazarus Chakwera, who lost by just 59,000 votes, claims officials used Tip Ex to change ballot papers and is seeking an order from the country’s constitutional court to annul the result.
In the months since the vote, mood in the country has become increasingly febrile, with group called the Human Rights Defender Coalition leading street protests demanding the resignation of Jane Ansah, the chair of the electoral commission and the government deploying troops to quell unrest.
On Wednesday this week, supporters of the government clashed violently with opposition groups protesting the results of the elections in Blantyre, the country’s commercial capital.
On Thursday, the family of an opposition protester detained by the military last week said he died in prison. Justin Phiri was arrested while taking part in demonstrations against presidential election results in the northern town of Karonga.
Opposition supporters said the trouble began when they were ambushed with stones during a march against the election result. Witnesses said protesters tried to fight back until police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Britain spends about £75 million a year on aid projects in Malawi. In addition in 2018, the Scottish government announced it would spend £11 million over five years on health, education, and economic development projects.
The spending comes under the Malawi Development Program, a project launched then First Minister Alex Salmond in 2006 and which emphasises connections between Malawi and Scots missionaries including David Livingstone.