Malawi’s former President says he is quitting politics.
Bakili Muluzi made the announcement shortly after returning home from the United Kingdom where he received medical treatment.
Mr. Muluzi says he has stepped down as leader of the opposition United Democratic Front party (UDF) to spend more time with his family.
“I would have retired in 2004 and do other things, but my colleagues (put) pressure me to say you cannot leave the party in this state…That is why I remained in the party as chairman as president of the party until today, when I said no, as we are preparing for 2014. Let us identify new blood who will have new thinking with vigor… And this is in the name of the former minister of finance Honorable Friday Jumbe,” he said.
The former president is still facing graft charges after the anti-corruption bureau accused him of diverting about 1.7 billion Malawi Kwacha ($11 million) in donor funds into his personal account - - a charge he denies.
Muluzi rejected speculation that he was forced to quit politics as part of a deal that will have the graft charges against him dropped.
“No, no, no. It has no connection at all. I can assure you that. You know that I have had so many problems. I mean, they have accused me of wanting to overthrow the Malawi government. I was arrested at the airport when I was coming from the UK a year ago. So many things have happened, and that is politics. But there is no arrangement whatsoever. I am retiring voluntarily. I feel that I have done my job to bring democracy to the people of Malawi, for which I am proud,” Muluzi said.
Muluzi ruled Malawi from 1994 to 2004 after defeating long time ruler Kamuzu Banda in the country’s first democratic elections since independence.
Muluzi handed over power peacefully to President Bingu Wa Mutharika in 2004. But the relationship between the one-time friends became testy after Mutharika left the UDF to form his Democratic People’s party (DPP).
The former president said he has no ill feelings towards President Mutharika.
“I have no problem with the president. I have no grudge with the president. I mean, if at one time or some other, he invites me to a meeting, I will happily accept that. And remember this: I am a member of the African Forum. This is a grouping of former presidents in Africa, and we wanted to create a window for us as former presidents to assist our government in advising if necessary. And I can do that if I am required to do so by my president,” he said.
Political observers estimate that 13 million Malawians live below the poverty line on less than one dollar per day.
But Muluzi said he did his best to alleviate the suffering Malawians.
“One thing that you must remember is that Malawi is a poor country. We are not a rich country, and because we are not a rich country, our resources in terms of financial resources are limited. I would have wanted to do whatever I could to help the people of Malawi. For instance, we embarked on a program called the Poverty Alleviation Program, but for that you need resources,” Muluzi said.