US concerned over transition delay

2012-04-06 19:27

Washington - The United States said Malawi's vice president should take charge soon following the death of the country's leader on Friday, voicing concern over the delay in succession.

The United States offered condolences to the family of President Bingu wa Mutharika, who political and hospital sources said died of a heart attack despite an official silence from the government.

"Malawi's constitution lays out a clear path for succession and we expect it to be observed," Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said in a statement.

"We are concerned about the delay in the transfer of power. We trust that the vice president who is next in line will be sworn in shortly."

Under the constitution, Vice President Joyce Banda is next in line. But that succession is politically fraught because Mutharika kicked her out of the ruling party in 2010 as he chose to groom his brother as heir apparent instead.

"As Malawians mourn the loss of their president, the United States remains committed to maintaining our strong relationship and partnership with the people of Malawi," Carson said.

Mutharika, a former World Bank economist who first came to power in 2004, had initially won international praise for good governance and for averting a potential famine through fertiliser subsidies.

But he came under growing criticism in recent years over attempts to rein in the media and to shield the government from public criticism.

The United States suspended a $350 million grant for Malawi's energy sector after a deadly crackdown on July 2011 protests that accused Mutharika of mismanaging the economy and trampling on democratic rights.

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