WHO IS MALAWI’S NEW PRESIDENT?
By: Gift Nyamapfene
Opposition candidate, Peter Mutharika was declared the winner of Malawi’s disputed presidential elections a few days ago.
Mutharika, a widower for 30 years and father of three, was sworn in as president on 31 May 2014. He is the fifth president of Malawi since independence from Britain in 1964.
Mutharika (74) leads the Democratic Progressive Party, which garnered 36,4% of the vote according to Malawi Electoral commission.
He is the younger brother of Bingu wa Mutharika, who was President of Malawi from 2004 until his death in 2012.
Mutharika received his Law degree from the University of London in 1965. He received his LL.M and JSD degrees from Yale University in 1966 and 1969 respectively.
He served as advisor to the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law initiative for Africa. In 1995 he led a campaign and advocated for limiting presidential powers in Malawi.
He was one of Bingu wa Mutharika’s leading advisors in his campaign for re-election as President in 2009.
Mutharika then officially began his rise in Malawian politics. In May 2009, he was elected to the Malawian Parliament. He was appointed by Bingu wa Mutharika as Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
Bingu wa Mutharika retained Peter Mutharika’s counsel on foreign and domestic policy until his death in 2012.
In September 2011, he became the Minister of Foreign Affairs amid a cabinet crisis in Malawi. It is alleged that Mutharika has US citizenship and this sparked controversy in his bid for a cabinet post and his eligibility to run for president. Dual citizenship is illegal in Malawi’s constitution.
After the sudden death of Bingu wa Mutharika on April 5 2012, Peter Mutharika was allegedly involved in a secret plan to block the constitutional succession by outgoing president, Joyce Banda. Mutharika wanted the presidency for himself and this led to a three-day constitutional crisis in Malawi.
He currently faces treason charges for inciting a mutiny and conspiracy to commit a felony. The trial is still pending and may be set aside since
Malawi’s constitution provides immunity for sitting presidents.