MALAWIANS WELCOME FIRST WOMAN PRESIDENT

(REUTERS – 8TH APRIL) The streets of Malawi’s capital Lilongwe were calm on Sunday (April 8), after the inauguration ofsouthern Africa’s first female president Joyce Banda.

Prominent women’s rights campaigner Joyce Banda was sworn in as Malawi’s President on Saturday (April 7), becoming southern Africa’s first female head of state and raising hopes for a fresh start in the small, poor nation after the death of her predecessor.

Banda, a 61-year-old policeman’s daughter who has won international recognition for championing the education of underprivileged girls, had served as Vice President under Bingu wa Mutharika, who died on Thursday (April 5) following a heart attack.

Residents in the capital Lilongwe expressed hope that Banda could put the country’s economy back on track after Mutharika had overseen a massive drop in government spending after major western donors froze of millions of dollars of aid following differences with Mutharika over his economic policies and heavy-handed repression of dissent.

As a result of the freeze, fuel supplies dried up and food prices soared.

There appeared to be little public sorrow at Mutharika’s death in Lilongwe on Sunday (April 8).

“I’m just expressing my happiness because I’m very happy. I am very happy that Bingu is dead. He has put us in many,many problems. Like fuel shortages, you know, bad governance, he was a dictator. Yes I am happy,” said Lilongwe resident, Limani Abdallah.

“The death of former President brings hope to Malawians, all of them and we expect more things from this new president, Joyce Banda, because the governance was bad with Doctor Bingu wa Mutharika and every Malawian was not happy with him because we were having the problems with the foreign currency, a problem with the governance and everything was bad to him because he didn’t want to listen to other people. That was what was the problem with him,” said another resident Abdallah Kalawiri.

Banda has got down to business straight away.

She did not attend the Easter Sunday service at her local church because she was holding official meetings.

Banda is expected to run the country until elections scheduled for 2014.