Swearing in of Vice President a Positive Step for Transition in Malawi

Freedom House commends the orderly transfer of power and respect for Malawi’s constitution, following the swearing in of former vice president, Joyce Banda on April 7.  The decision for Banda to assume power comes after former president Bingu wa Mutharika died last week from massive cardiac arrest. Banda is the first female head of state in southern Africa, and will remain president until the country’s next elections in 2014. Freedom House encourages President Banda to take this opportunity to enact democratic reforms and reverse the troubling trend of rising authoritarianism in the country, including a massive and violent crackdown on civil society and growing disrespect for democratic institutions and principles.

“We are encouraged that President Banda has moved swiftly to address some troubling issues in the country, including the appointment of a new police chief,” said Robert Herman, vice president for regional programs at Freedom House. “We sincerely hope this move represents the beginning stages of a more democratic and accountable government in Malawi, one that genuinely engages with civil society and is open to reform and political reconciliation.”

Former police chief, Peter Mukhito is widely believed to have been at the center of a security crackdown on civilian protests last year that claimed at least 19 lives, causing international outrage and prompting the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to suspend $350 million in funding to Malawi. Banda formerly served as Mutharika’s vice-president, despite a very public rift and expulsion from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The DPP largely dominates Malawi’s political landscape, including Malawi’s legislature, and has increasingly moved to stifle political dissent.  

Learn More:

Freedom in the World 2011: Malawi
Freedom of the Press 2011: Malawi
Malawi Arrest of Human Rights Official Part of Larger Crackdown