Malawians are divided on how to remember their late president | Africa | DW | 23.04.2012
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Malawians are divided on how to remember their late president

African leaders joined thousands of Malawians in paying their last respects to president Bingu wa Mutharika. Some hail him as one of Africa's greatest, but others say he led Malawi into crisis.

Thousands of Malawians mourning the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika came by foot, bicycle and motorized vehicle to southern Malawi on Monday to attend Mutharika's state funeral.

The president's embalmed body was laid to rest in a mausoleum dubbed "Taj Mahal" by the local media. Mutharika spent years of his presidency building the white marble edifice where his first wife Ethel is also buried.

Malawian Vice-President Joyce Banda addresses a media conference in the capital Lilongwe April 7, 2012. Banda took over the running of the southern African nation on Saturday after the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika, and fears of a succession struggle receded as state institutions backed the constitutional handover. The government only officially confirmed 78-year-old Mutharika's death earlier on Saturday, two days after he had died following a heart attack. Seated on either side of Banda are the Inspector General of Police Peter Mukhito (L) and the Army Commander General Henry Odilo. REUTERS/Mabvuto Banda (MALAWI - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY)

President Joyce Banda has suceedefd Mutharika

President Joyce Banda, who succeeded Mutharika, urged Malawians and African heads of state to remember the late president positively.

"He was not an angel," Banda said. "He made mistakes, so let us not remember the bad things - let us remember about the positive things about Bingu."

African leaders, who included Mutharika's closest ally, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, as well as the presidents of Mozambique, Namibia, Kenya and Tanzania, praised Malawi for the smooth political transition.

"We congratulate you for the orderly and smooth transition which helped to entrench and cement the rule of law," Mozambican President Armando Guebeza told mourners.

Man of mixed fortunes

Mutharika leaves behind a mixed legacy; he will be remembered as a leader who pursued some successful economic policies during his first term in office, improving food security in one of the poorest countries in the world. However, many Malawians will point to his second term, which began in 2009, as the onset of the economic crisis the country currently finds itself in.

Bingu wa Mutharika's leadership was plagued by rows with foreign donors and civil society groups as the economy faltered.

Picture of a Malawian family outside their mud house.

Malawians hope that aid resumption will better their lives

By the time of his death on April 5, Malawi was short of fuel, foreign exchange reserves and other essentials. The big blow to his legacy came on July 2011, when his security forces killed at least 19 protesters who had rallied against his policies.

Most key donors, such as the United Kingdom and United States, shunned the nation during the period of strained relations with Mutharika.

This is bound to change after his death: the African Development Bank has said it is willing to provide $45 million (34 million euros) to help Malawi's budget and to support President Joyce Banda's effort to revive the economy.

Author: Chrispin Mwakideu (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Daniel Pelz / mll

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