NAIROBI — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited with Malawian President Joyce Banda in Lilongwe, in what is seen as a vote of confidence in the president. The visit follows restoration of U.S. aid to Malawi.
Clinton praised Banda for introducing reforms that have helped reinvigorate the economy of the impoverished southern African nation.
Banda, Malawi's first woman president, welcomed Clinton, saying they had both long been women and children activists and she had been waiting for the day when they would meet.
“One would assume that probably this is a vote of confidence in the way Madame Joyce Banda has so far carried out the duties of her office,” noted Catholic University of Malawi political science lecturer Vincent Kondowe.
Relations have improved between the United States and Malawi since Banda took office in April, following the sudden death of her predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika.
In June, the U.S. development agency (USAID) said it was restoring $350 million in aid to Malawi that had been frozen last year because of concerns about President Mutharika's rights records, citing a violent crackdown on opposition protesters.
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Banda has tried to clean up Malawi's rights and governance record in a concerted attempt to regain the trust of international donors and to bring more development to country.
Kondowe says the strategy appears to have worked.
"Basically when one looks back at the way the late president conducted himself from 2009, maybe we should assume that probably we should see more aid packages, more political efforts in terms of transfer of resource from the American government to the Malawian people," he said.
Clinton is due to fly to South Africa Sunday, and later on to Nigeria, Ghana and Benin.
In Ghana, she is expected to attend the state funeral of the country's late president John Atta Mills.
Reporting contributed by Lameck Masina in Blantyre, Malawi.
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Map of Hillary Clinton's Africa Trip