Malawi Mourns Death of President Mutharika

Posted April 7th, 2012 at 9:45 am (UTC-5)
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Malawi's vice president Joyce Banda has called for calm as the nation mourns its late President Bingu wa Mutharika, who died of a heart attack on Thursday.

Ms. Banda told reporters Saturday that flags will be flown at half-staff and that broadcasters should play “somber” music for the next 10 days.

Malawi State radio confirmed earlier Saturday that President Mutharika was dead, after two days of unconfirmed reports.

Malawi's constitution stipulates that the vice president is to take over the presidency if the president dies, but Ms. Banda has not yet taken the oath of office.

Mr. Mutharika was rushed to a hospital Thursday in the capital, Lilongwe, after falling ill at his home.

He was elected president of Malawi in 2004 and won a second term in 2009.

He was credited with improving food security in Malawi and, at one time, making his country a political and economic model for other African countries. But in more recent years, the economy has stumbled and unemployment has been high. Critics of the late president say he had become increasingly autocratic. Nineteen people were killed last July in anti-government protests.

An economist by education, Mr. Mutharika was a World Bank official and served as a civil servant in Malawi. He was appointed minister of economic planning and development in 2002, and then-President Bakili Muluzi nominated him as his successor.

He later broke away from Mr. Muluzi and formed the Democratic Progressive Party, which has the majority in parliament.

1. Banda

“Ladies and gentlemen and members of the press, I call upon all Malawians to remain calm, and to keep the peace during this time of bereavement. Further, I wish to direct that all national flags at public buildings be flown at half-mast and that the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation and private media of goodwill play somber music as we honor this mourning period, which is for 10 days.”

2. Banda

“I don't think there is any way we can discuss who is caretaker and who is not. Because that is what I was saying. And I think that is what the chief senator said. That the constitution is prevailing right now. But the purpose of this meeting this afternoon is for us, and I want to repeat this: is that we should focus on the funeral. That right now, what is paramount is that we should focus on the father of the nation.”