Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

Banda sworn in as Malawi president

Malawi's vice president Joyce Banda has been sworn in as president following her predecessor's sudden death in office.

The brief ceremony in Lilongwe, the capital of the impoverished southern African nation, ended more than a day of uncertainty.

Doctors had disclosed that 78-year-old president Bingu wa Mutharika had died of a heart attack on Thursday, but the government insisted until Saturday morning that he was only ill.

The delay in announcing Mr Mutharika's death and allowing Ms Banda to step in led to speculation politicians were squabbling over succession.

Ms Banda had held on to her post of vice president despite falling out with Mr Mutharika, and the constitution dictates the vice president should take over if the president died.

Ms Banda is Malawi's first woman president, and one of few women to have reached the top office in Africa.

She will 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 Mr Mutharika had clashed.

Under the constitution, Ms Banda will serve out Mr Mutharika's term, which ends in early 2014. Mr Mutharika first won office in 2004 and was re-elected in 2009. The late president's party named his brother as its president on Friday, though it did not then confirm the president had died.

Ms Banda, 62, takes over a country in which shortages of sugar, fuel and other commodities have created long, restive lines at shops and service stations.

Mr Mutharika, a former World Bank official once heralded for his economic stewardship, had in recent years been accused of mismanagement and of trampling on human rights. Anti-government demonstrations across Malawi last year were met with an unprecedented security crackdown that resulted in at least 19 deaths.


From Belfast Telegraph