April 27, 2012

New president fires Mutharika loyalists and appoints new ministers

Joyce Banda, the country’s new president, has sacked her foreign minister, Peter Mutharika, brother of the late president who had died in office on April 5th. Peter Mutharika had been anointed as heir-apparent for the 2014 elections when Bingu wa Mutharika was due to retire. The cabinet reshuffle comes days after the burial of the former president at his farm.

Joyce Banda had been vice-president since 2009 but later fell out with the president and became a fierce critic. She was forced to resign from his Democratic Progressive Party in 2010 when she refused to endorse his choice of Peter Mutharika to succeed him. In the wake of Mr Mutharika's death there had been concerns that allies of the foreign minister would try to stop the constitutional transfer of power to Mrs Banda, who had set up her own political party.

As the BBC reports, other Mutharika loyalists were fired, too. Moreover, Banda also made some surprise appointments. The son of former President Bakili Muluzi, Austin Atupele Muluzi, enters cabinet as the economic planning and development minister. A presidential hopeful from his father's former ruling United Democratic Front, he was drawing big crowds at opposition rallies this year and was arrested for inciting violence after political unrest in Lilongwe.

Lawyer and activist Ralph Kasambara, who was also detained by police recently has also been given a cabinet position. He becomes justice minister and attorney general - a post he held when Mr Mutharika first came to power in 2004. (Sadocc)

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