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Malawi President to Visit US, Meet with Donors

Malawi President Joyce Banda is visiting the U.S. next week. (FILE January 20, 2012)
Malawi President Joyce Banda will be visiting the U.S. this week – but she won’t be taking her predecessor’s private presidential jet.

Banda recently announced the government will be selling off the presidential jet, along with dozens of limousines. It's part of an effort, officials say, to streamline government expenses. The moves have received accolades from the international community.

"Malawi is going through hard times economically. We are just trying as a government to get rid of costs at any given opportunity so that we help ourselves," said Malawi’s Minister of Information, Moses Kunkuyu Kalongashawa.

Kalongashawa added that Malawi has taken many steps since Banda came to power in April to entice the international community to reconsider committing aid to Malawi. Some $350 million of aid from donors including the U.S.’ Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) was suspended earlier this year. The donor groups said Malawi had "failed" to show a clear commitment to "good governance, economic freedom and investing in their citizens."

That was before then-President Binga Wa Mutharika died in office, and Banda took over the country’s leadership.

"If you look at the political involvement in Malawi, it has totally changed,” said Kalongashawa. Before Mrs. Banda came to power, he added, "in parliament, we did pass some legislation that Malawians did not like. Those laws have been repealed as of now."

Kalongashawa said one such law allowed the information minister to ban any newspaper or publication that that he felt was "not in good sound with the government or minister." He added, "That has been repealed."

"A number of bills have been repealed that we passed in the past government, and those are some of the bills the donors cited as bad laws that we had in the country," Kalongashawa said.

Banda will meet with MCC officials during her trip to the U.S., said Kalongashawa, noting "it will obviously be an opportunity for the President to have her words with the MCC regarding this issue."

When the MCC suspended the funds to Malawi, they also cited the government’s "decision to allow Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to attend a trade summit in Lilongwe, despite the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) outstanding warrant for his arrest."

According to Kalongashawa, the new Malawi government has made it clear that the Sudanese leader will be arrested if he comes to Lilongwe for the African Union meeting set to be held in Malawi next month.

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