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Malawi President: Malawi President Dies

April 7, 2012 by staff 

Malawi President: Malawi President Dies, Malawi has known rule by Britain and by a mercurial dictator. Over the last few days, however, it wasn’t clear who was leading this impoverished southern African country, as doctors disclosed Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika had died but the government insisted he was only ill.

In the end, Joyce Banda, who had held onto her post of vice-president despite falling out with Mutharika, moved to take charge Saturday, holding a news conference at which she was flanked by Cabinet ministers, the army commander national police chief and announced a period of mourning for her predecessor.

The Malawi government only confirmed the president’s death on Saturday, two days after the leader of the impoverished southern African country died and a day after it was announced by doctors.

The delay in announcing Mutharika’s death and allowing Banda to step in led to speculation politicians were squabbling over succession. Banda may have to contend with powerful enemies at home as she tries to lead her country out of economic crisis and repair relations with international donors with whom Mutharika had clashed.

Gift Mwakhawa, president of the Law Society of Malawi, is convinced some members of Cabinet tried to stop Banda from taking over, even though Malawi’s constitution makes it clear power should pass to the vice-president if the president dies.

“Most Malawians wanted the constitution to prevail. The security forces wanted the constitution to prevail. And the constitution has prevailed,” Mwakhawa said in an interview.

Under the constitution, Banda will serve out Mutharika’s term, which ends in early 2014. Mutharika first won office in 2004, and was re-elected in 2009.

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