US embassy cable - 04LILONGWE451


Identifier: 04LILONGWE451
Wikileaks: View 04LILONGWE451 at
Origin: Embassy Lilongwe
Created: 2004-05-25 14:40:00
Tags: PGOV KDEM ECON KCOR PINR LY TW RW KE MI Economic Development Political
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, KDEM, ECON, KCOR, PINR, LY, TW, RW, KE, MI, Economic, Development, Political 
     B. LILONGWE 439 
     C. LILONGWE 438 
1. (U) Summary: Bingu wa Mutharika was inaugurated as 
Malawi's third president on May 24 at a sparsely-attended 
ceremony in Blantyre.  Calling for reconciliation, reform, 
and peace in his inaugural address, he outlined a program to 
move Malawi "from poverty to prosperity"; announced his 
intentions to institute broad reforms; and indicated his 
willingness to work with the opposition.  His remarks were in 
stark contrast to those of outgoing president Bakili Muluzi 
who used the occasion to lambaste the opposition and the 
media, and to mischaracterize the assessment of the elections 
made by international observer groups.  Heads of state from 
South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Rwanda were present, 
along with delegations from several other countries.  End 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
A Political Rally in the Guise of an Inauguration 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
2. (U) Less than 24 hours after the announcement of results 
of May 20's presidential and parliamentary elections (reftel 
c), Bingu wa Mutharika was sworn in as Malawi's third 
president, and Cassim Chilumpha assumed the position of first 
vice-president.  The ceremony at Blantyre's Chichiri Stadium 
was poorly attended, and spectators had to be bused in at the 
last moment to avoid the embarrassment of empty grandstands. 
There were no representives from opposition parties present, 
nor were there more than a few individuals representing civil 
society.  The audience was comprised of government officials, 
foreign dignitaries, the diplomatic corps, civil servants, 
and a large number of supporters of the ruling United 
Democratic Front (UDF). 
3. (SBU) The presidents of South Africa, Zimbabwe, 
Mozambique, and Rwanda flew in for the day to attend the 
inauguration.  Delegations representing Taiwan, Libya, 
Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia, Tanzania, Namibia, Kenya, SADC, 
and COMESA also attended.  The crowd roundly applauded 
President Mugabe on his arrival, but saved its loudest cheers 
for South African President Mbeki.  (Note: Mbeki was clearly 
the prize most coveted by the GOM to give legitimacy to the 
elections.  His participation was in question as late as the 
afternoon of May 23 when election results were finally 
announced amid protests by opposition parties.) 
4. (U) Attendance at the ceremony was affected by the 
bitterness of opposition supporters at the conduct of the 
elections, and by their disappointment with the results. 
When opposition candidate Gwanda Chakuamba preemptorily 
announced his "victory" on May 22, most of his supporters 
believed he had indeed won.  When it transpired that Muluzi's 
hand-picked successor had won the election with only 36% of 
the votes (with the remaining 64% split among four opposition 
candidates), protests became violent in the streets of 
Blantyre (reftel b) which also was a factor in the low 
turn-out at the inauguration. 
5. (U) Though Mutharika concluded with a gracious acceptance 
speech outlining an ambitious reform program, the bulk of the 
ceremony had the feel of a political rally.  Master of 
Ceremonies (and Muluzi's Minister of State for Presidential 
Affairs) Ken Lipenga politicized the invocation prayers.  To 
the roars of the partisan crowd, he took thinly-veiled 
pot-shots at religious groups (primarily the Catholics, 
Presbyterians, and Anglicans) who had opposed the UDF. 
Dripping sarcasm, Lipenga thanked clergy for their prayers 
for a new president and for fair elections, saying that "the 
Almighty has answered that prayer."  Hand-picked pro-UDF 
clergy members then gave invocations. 
6. (SBU) Outgoing president Bakili Muluzi got the crowd to 
its feet in his trademark political rally style.  He thanked 
the people of Malawi for their support over the last ten 
years, and then lashed out at the opposition.  Muluzi noted 
that international observers from various organizations had 
come to Malawi, and that all had declared the elections free 
and fair.  (Note: In fact, not one group has done so, per 
reftel a, and the EU issued a press release within hours 
disputing Muluzi's statement.)  Muluzi also poured scorn on 
opposition candidates protesting the results and the 
administration of the elections, on international media (and 
specifically the BBC) for "breeding unnecessary confusion," 
and emphasized repeatedly that Malawi was "a sovereign state" 
and will not take orders from anyone. 
Mutharika: "From Poverty to Prosperity" 
7.  (U) Mutharika completely changed the tone in his 
thoughtful and muted address. He called for reconciliation, 
peace, and deep reforms, pledging to move Malawi from poverty 
to prosperity.  He outlined a four-pronged reform package in 
the public, private, agricultural, and civil service sectors. 
 He also acknowledged the need for the GOM to build and 
strengthen relations with the donor community -- a clear 
reference to problems Malawi recently faced with the IMF 
after GOM failure to keep its pledges led to the suspension 
of funding. 
8.  (U) The new president also called for a reduction in the 
size of Malawi's 46-member cabinet, better controls on 
parastatals, strict adherence to a national budget, and the 
move of the presidency and other executive branch offices 
from Blantyre to the capital city of Lilongwe.  Notably, he 
pledged to stamp out corruption with a "zero tolerance" 
policy.  He promised independent audits of government 
spending, the strengthening of anti-corruption institutions, 
and the swift prosecution of offenders "at all levels."  To a 
suprising round of applause (considering the audience), he 
added:  "And let me repeat -- at ALL levels!" 
9.  (SBU) Mutharika said all the right things and impressed 
many observers by deviating from the script adhered to by the 
rest of the UDF at the ceremony.  The fact that his comments 
were in such sharp contrast to those of Muluzi and other UDF 
heavyweights is a clear indication of the challenge ahead of 
him in the coming months.   As chairman of the UDF, Muluzi 
has made it known he has no intention of fading into the 
background.   In fact, he plans to continue taking the lead 
on "political" matters while Mutharika busies himself 
cleaning up the economic mess he inherited.  If Mutharika is 
able to assert independence from Muluzi, he may be able to 
follow through on some of his pledges to put Malawi's house 
in order.  With no power base of his own and without a 
working majority in parliament, however, Mutharika has his 
work cut out for him.   End Comment. 

Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04