- Published on Wednesday, 18 April 2012 09:13
- Written by Chris van der Westhuyzen
After the death of former Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika on April 5th, the appointment of Joyce Banda as the new head of state was met with widespread optimism as she started addressing some of the major challenges that lay ahead.
Mutharika, who was seen as growing increasingly authoritative and intolerant of criticism in his second term in office, has crippled the economy in this aid-dependent nation through his feuds with donors and lenders such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Last year, a British aid agency suspended humanitarian aid to Malawi after its envoy was expelled for highlighting human rights abuses under Mutharika’s regime.
Currently, an estimated 75% of Malawi’s 15 million people live on under $1 a day. Many small business owners struggle to survive due to severe fuel and foreign exchange shortages in the country.
Banda, Africa’s second female president, said that she has spoken with Britain's Africa Minister Henry Bellingham, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and with IMF officials in her attempt to repair Malawi’s strained relationship with Western donors.
"I am personally committed to ensuring that the government of Malawi addresses issues that negatively affected our relations with donors," Banda said. "My government is committed to restoring the rule of law, respect for human rights and freedoms and demonstrating good economic governance, starting with making sure Malawi has a programme with the IMF."
The new president has also axed key people who held influential positions in the previous government. Inspector General of Police Peter Mukhitho, who was seen as a key ally of Mutharika, was among those who have been fired.
Prominent political analyst Mustapha Hussein said that "the police, in the previous government, were being used as an organ of Mutharika’s political party to instil fear in the citizens", and that "Banda’s move to dismiss the Inspector General of Police has given hope to many that this country has indeed changed for the better."
In New York, during the launch of Madonna’s new fragrance, the pop star praised the appointment of Banda as the new president.
The singer, who adopted two Malawian children, said that Banda "was really into girls being educated in Africa, which is a good thing. So, I'm glad".