Eleven high-level government officials in Malawi are under investigation for their role in events following the death of the southern African nation’s former president. The United States has a strong relationship and partnership with the people of Malawi, and we have confidence in the government’s respect for the rule of law. We call on authorities to ensure due process for all those arrested.
The men were detained following release of a report March 7 by a government-ordered Commission of Inquiry that found when former President Bingu wa Mutharika died of a heart attack on April 5 last year, a group of Cabinet ministers and other senior government officials delayed announcing his passing in order to meet secretly to prevent then Vice President Joyce Banda, a political rival, from assuming the presidency as stipulated by Malawi’s constitution.
We expect and urge that all Malawians continue to adhere to the rule of law as the investigations and judicial process move forward.
The group, which included the late president’s brother, the nation’s former local government and information ministers as well as the current administration’s economic planning minister and the Chief Secretary, appealed for support from the nation’s top military commander, but he refused, the commission report said. After 48 hours the administration announced the former president’s death and President Banda was sworn into office April 7. She removed some Cabinet ministers and retained others.
Believing that criminal offenses and possibly treason were committed by the group in allegedly subverting the constitutional transition, authorities arrested the Mutharika loyalists, including his brother Peter, a candidate in next year’s presidential election.
A court later released the men on bail and ordered them to report to police every two weeks as the government continues its investigation. They are expected to file pleas in the case when formal charges are issued. Calling the arrests politically motivated, some Mutharika supporters have clashed with police. News of the release of the accused, though, has reduced tensions.
We expect and urge that all Malawians continue to adhere to the rule of law as the investigations and judicial process move forward. The United States supports the healthy dialogue surrounding release of the commission’s report. In keeping with its transparent and democratic values we have confidence that Malawi’s judiciary affords all those standing accused due process and ensures respect for human rights.