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.
Photo Gallery: Hillary Clinton in Africa
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets Kofi Annan and his wife Nane Lagergren at the funeral of Ghana President John Atta Mills, in Accra, Ghana, August 10, 2012.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, left, meets with Ghana's President John Dramani Mahama, at his residence in Accra, Ghana, August 9, 2012.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a clinic at Delft township on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa, August 8, 2012.
South Africa's Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, left, and Hillary Clinton visit the Delft South Clinic in Delft South, a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa, August 8, 2012.
Hillary Clinton meets with former South Africa President Nelson Mandela and his wife Graca Machel at his home in Qunu, South Africa, August 6, 2012.
Hillary Clinton and South Africa's Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane see a rare snow flurry as they leave business meetings in Pretoria, South Africa, August 7, 2012.
Hillary Clinton walks out with African Union Chair-Designate Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma after their meeting at Brynterion Estate in Pretoria, South Africa, August 7, 2012.
Hillary Clinton dances with Emille Phiri, chair of the Lumbadzi Milk Bulking Group, Lilongwe, Malawi, August 5, 2012.
Hillary Clinton meets with Malawi's President Joyce Banda at the State House in Lilongwe, Malawi, August 5, 2012.
Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki, with Hillary Clinton (R) and his vice president Kalonzo Musyoka (L), leaves after a meeting at State House in Nairobi August 4, 2012.
Hillary Clinton is met by Uganda's Foreign Affairs Minister Okello Oryem upon arrival at Entebbe International Airport, August 3, 2012.
Hillary Clinton shakes hands with Bishop Elias Taban in Juba August 3, 2012.
Hillary Clinton meets with South Sudan President Salva Kiir, August 3, 2012, at the Presidential Office Building in Juba.
Hillary Clinton, accompanied by President Macky Sall, speaks at the Presidential Palace in Dakar, August 1, 2012.
Hillary Clinton shakes hands with staff from the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, August 1, 2012.
The shadow of Hillary Clinton on a Senegalese flag before she spoke at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal, August 1, 2012.
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