The president of Malawi has died of a heart attack at the age of seventy-eight. There were reports of his death surfacing yesterday morning; however, government officials said that Bingu wa Mutharika was in critical condition.
Mutharika was considered to be a strong leader when he was elected president in 2004. He is a former economist with the World Bank and studied economics in several countries, including the United States. He was re-elected in 2008 as president and his main focus was to improve the economy and battle corruption.
For the most part, his goals were successful. Mutharika implemented a program to help farmers, which in turn helped boost the economy. It subsidized agricultural products, which helped millions in the farming nation. Citizens were working towards being self-sufficient, which reduced the amount of food aid that was required.
However, in the last few years, his popularity has faltered. There are frequent electrical blackouts, a failing economy once again, and shortages in foreign exchange reserves. Demonstrators have accused Murtharika of turning the country into a dictatorship and passing bills that have infringed on the rights of citizens.
Last year, a massive protest in the streets ended in a government crackdown and 12 people were killed. He jeopardized many relationships with foreign countries, such as with Britain and the United States. A leaked memo criticizing Britain’s leader and an expelled envoy from Britain severely strained the relationship with one of Malawi’s greatest donors. Malawi’s envoy was expelled from Britain and an invitation to the royal weeding in London was rescinded. All “general budget support” to Malawi has been halted. In addition, the United States has suspended aid to Malawi because they feel that the democratic government is now failing.
Matharika’s successor should be Joyce Banda, his vice-president; however, she was expelled from Malawi’s ruling party. It is not known if she will succeed Mutharika as president now.