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Malawi post-inaugural round-up

15 April 2012

It’s been just over a week since Joyce Banda was sworn in as Malawi’s third president since multiparty reform in 1994. (For background on Banda’s ascendancy, see these earlier posts.) In case you missed Joyce Banda’s swearing-in ceremony, the video from Al-Jazeera English has been uploaded:

Al-Jazeera English also interviewed President Joyce Banda following her inauguration:

And, on her first official working day, President Banda held a press conference. From what she had to say, it seems she’s hit the ground running. You can view highlights of the press conference on Storify.

The Zeleza Post has a chronology of events from Mutharika’s death to Banda’s swearing in as president. The conclusion discussing treason is particularly interesting.

Luso Munthali created a music playlist commemorating the transfer of power. The only thing missing is a prelude that would include Lucius Banda’s single “Life.” The song documents some of Malawi’s struggles under Bingu wa Mutharika. It is written as if Lucius Banda is speaking to Mutharika. For those who don’t know Chichewa, near the end of the song Banda says, “if you hear this song I hope it burns your heart.” Well, maybe Mutharika finally heard it. (FYI: Banda is a common last name in Malawi — Lucius and the current president are not related.)

The Nation has printed reflections from Malawian citizens about the death of Mutharika and the ascendancy of Joyce Banda. All but an internationally known human rights campaigner talk about the hand of God.

Former President Bingu wa Mutharika’s body has arrived in Malawi and being taken around the country for Malawians to see. The first photographs to hit the web were from Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital, where his body first arrived.

The BBC aired an interview with Joyce Banda on Friday, April 13th. Banda began the interview saying, “Malawians have decided that they’re going to rise above politics and just concentrate and focus more on the suffering of Malawians. The political parties are working together… Here on the ground, there’s no problem at all.” The BBC reporter asked Banda if she would include the opposition in her cabinet. Banda responded, “That is very, very necessary. I would like to see me return as many of those members of cabinet that are already in government. But I would also like to reach out and see if other people from other parties can come along, because at the center of all of this our economy is in shambles right now.” Listen to more of the interview via the Africa Today podcast (skip to 4:51 for Banda’s interview).

The most important appointment Banda has made is of Khumbo Kachali as the country’s vice president. Kachali represents the Mzimba South West Constituency and is the VP of President Banda’s political party: the People’s Party. Interesting tidbit: Kachali wrote about multiparty politics for his Masters thesis in the UK.

It’s a challenge to keep up with all of the firings/hirings, but here are a notable few:

  • The Police Inspector General is now Loti Dzonzi, a highly respected CCAP deacon and member of the Malawi Police Force since 1987. I am happy to see Peter Mukhito go, especially after the big mess he caused in the academic freedom struggle of 2011.
  • Information Minister Patricia Kaliati and state broadcaster MBC Director General Bright Malopa were fired.
  • The Secretary of the Treasury, Joseph Mwanamvekha, was also fired and replaced by Radson Mwadiwa, who previously served the same office.

Nearly 30 members of parliament from the previous ruling party (the DPP, Mutharika’s party) are reported to have pledged allegiance to Joyce Banda. Some left as early as the day Banda was sworn in as president. Though the constitution has a section devoted to party-switching in Parliament, these switches to Banda’s People’s Party are legal. Nonetheless, the party-switching isn’t boding well for the development of Malawi’s party system.

In the midst of all of this, it seems donors and other international actors are “returning” to Malawi. The UK will be renewing relations with Malawi and the US is also showing support. The World Bank has pledged its full support of Banda. South Africa is going to aid the nation with much-needed fuel. Mozambique has said it will normalize ties with Malawi (relations were strained, to say the least, under Mutharika). Let’s hope Banda gets all she needs to turn the ship around, and that she is a good steward of those resources.

If I’ve missed anything essential to share with those interested in the transition in Malawi, please share links and more information in the comments section.

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