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Former Malawian Leader Seeks Respect

Map of Malawi
Map of Malawi

Bakili Muluzi says the Mutharika government owes him compensation for what he says are his wrongful arrest and imprisonment

Former Malawian President Bakili Muluzi says more respect must be shown to former heads of state like him, especially those who worked to advance democracy and who voluntarily stepped down after their terms ended.

Muluzi was accused of plotting a military coup against his successor and current President, Bingu wa Mutharika.

Muluzi, who is currently in South Africa, said the Mutharika government owes him compensation for what he said are an arrest and imprisonment under false pretenses.

“I was in London when President Mutharika addressed a public rally in Malawi where he claimed that there were some people in Malawi who plotted to overthrow his government. Within a few days of that claim, senior serving and retired military officers were arrested. And, on my return, I was arrested on arrival at the airport, bundled in a military aircraft to Blantyre. So, I was very injured in terms of my personality. So, I am saying it was not right for the government and the police to arrest me,” he said.

The case against Mulizi and his co-conspirators was never brought to trial before the charges were dropped.

The former president said the Mutharika government has yet to say why the case never made it to trial.

“Up till now there has never been any information as to, first of all, why they arrested me. And, let me tell you that all those officers from the army and the police, retired and serving, have all been compensated because [the] government has no claim at all. They didn’t even defend that case; they know they were wrong; they arrested innocent people, including myself,” Muluzi said.

Muluzi said he has been betrayed by current Mutharika, someone he said he mentored politically.

“To begin with, I was not running out of the country. I was arriving from London coming into the country. Why would they arrest me at the airport in the first place? Secondly, as you were saying, President Mutharika was in my party. You know, he took over from me and there is no way I would have wanted to overthrow my own government. So I, indeed, felt very betrayed,” he said.

The former Malawian president said more respect must be shown to former African presidents, especially those who worked to advance democracy while in office, and who voluntarily stepped down after serving their terms.

“Some of us played a role, as you are aware. I fought for multi-party democracy in my country during the one-party dictatorship in my country. In 2004, I left office and President Mutharika took over from me. There was [a] reason why I should be haunted like this. So, to answer your question, I do not think that a former president should be handled the way I was handled when I was arrested at the airport,” Muluzi said.

Muluzi said he is recuperating well after a spinal cord operation last year.