Una vita in Africa – A life in Africa Rotating Header Image

June 5th, 2012:

Ci Voleva una Donna! – A Woman Was Needed!

Joyce Banda became the President of Malawi – one of the world’s least-developed countries – last April, after the death by hearth attack of the previous President, Bingu wa Mutharika. Mutharika had become a symbol of the African kleptocracy: he had purchased a 58-room mansion in his home district and granted a salary to his wife. He had also changed the Malawian flag, putting in it a blazing sun instead of a rising sun: because with him the country had already reached its full development. At least that’s what he thought.

Banda has wasted no time in reversing some controversial policies of her predecessor. Last May 28 the Parliament voted to revert to the independence flag. But this symbolic change could be only the beginning.

Last week Banda took the decision to sell the presidential jet – a Dassault Falcon 900EX valued at over ten million euro – and a fleet of 60 Mercedes government cars. Mutharika bought the presidential jet in 2009, claiming it was less expensive than leasing a plane every time he travelled. Last month Joyce Banda had already said she had no problems “offloading it as I can well use private airliners; I am already used to hitch-hiking”.

Yesterday has she has made clear that President Omar el-Bashir of Sudan will be arrested if he comes to Malawi for the 19th Summit of the African Union, due next month. Bashir is wanted by International Criminal Court (ICC) to answer cases of human rights abuses against his people, but in October last year he was welcomed in Malawi by Banda’s predecessor, as he had been previously welcomed in other African countries, like Kenya and Chad. Only Botswana and Zambia said they would arrest him if he dares set his foot on their soils, while South Africa said it cannot assure his security.

Possibly the actions of President Banda are due to pressures coming from donors and her search for popular support to run again for President in the elections due in 2014. . Yet they are a welcome change to boost the self-respect of the country.

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