Monday, August 22, 2011

Watching a good African country slowly succumb...

... to that African leaders' disease of paranoia and megalomania.

It was all going so well. Wa Mutharika had taken over from Muluzi who had ideas of amending the constitution to hold power. He had a decent first term with food production up, macroeconomy not perfect but in a decent state, Malawi the happiest country in Africa. Admittedly, the fertiliser subsidy programme is expensive and therefore with a high opportunity cost, but seemed to be popular.

The he won re-election and decided that Malawi a developed country and therefore needed to change its flag.   There were protests and arrests for flying the old flag.  Mutharika started clamping   down   on   press   freedom  including passing a bill which empowers the Minister of Information to ban any publication deemed not to be in the public interest and  journalists started to protest.

I warned a year ago where all of this was heading.

The British High Commissioner voiced concerns which he refused to retract and was expelled from the country. The British responded in kind and DfID    cut aid  to Malawi.  The MCC - a large American agency followed suite. A leader once heralded abroad is now condemned.

Meanwhile, while this is going on, protests have erupted in Malawi - partly at high oil prices, partly due to an increasingly authoritarian regime, which Mutharika responded to by sending in the army ordering a shoot to kill policy and saying that he would go after the protesters 'even if you hide in holes, I'll smoke you out'. Despite his calls to end the protests, they continue with many dead. Vigils are now held for the dead which Mutharika requests be called off with thinly veiled threats: 'I sincerely appeal to the organisers to reflect carefully, search their inner souls and call off the vigils in order to save lives and destruction of property'.

Over the weekend, Mutharika dissolved his entire cabinet and has taken over all portfolios himself. And that is how easy it all is... No Mo Ibrahim Prize for Mutharika any more. All so sad.

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