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Meet the candidates in Malawi’s unsettled presidential race

Chilima, a youthful 46-year-old, quit the ruling DPP last year and set up the UTM to contest the election.

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Malawi goes to the polls on Tuesday in a presidential race that could test President Peter Mutharika’s grip on power. These are the leading contenders amongst the Malawi presidential candidates:

The elderly president

President Peter Mutharika, 78, won the 2014 election – two years after his older brother Bingu Wa Mutharika died after having a heart attack while in office. His term has been dominated by food shortages, power outages and ballooning external debt, which have damaged his popularity, as well as concerns about his health.

Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika arrives for his final elections campaign rally at Mjamba Park in the commercial city of Blantyre, on May 18, 2019, ahead of the Tuesday, May 21, 2019, Tripartite Elections.

A former professor of law at Washington University, Mutharika is a constitutional expert who served as a minister of justice, for education, science and technology, and as minister of foreign affairs. He came to power on a promise to tackle corruption after the “Cashgate” scandal erupted in 2013, revealing massive looting from state coffers by government officials, ruling party figures and businessmen.

But he has also been tainted by graft allegations, and last year a public outcry of over $200,000 that he had allegedly received from a businessman who was under investigation for a multi-million-dollar deal to supply food to the police. As the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Mutharika has a mixed economic record since 2014. Growth has slowed from 5.7 percent to four percent but inflation has fallen sharply from 23 percent to below nine percent, according to IMF figures.

“You can see the developments that I have done across the country with your own eyes. Let the work of my hands bear witness for me,” he said on the campaign trail as he opened a new road.

The rebel deputy

Saulos Chilima was Mutharika’s running mate in 2014 and became vice-president – but he then fell out with his boss. Chilima, a youthful 46-year-old, quit the ruling DPP last year and set up the United Transformation Movement (UTM) to contest the election.

Malawian Vice President and United Transformation Movement presidential candidate Saulos Chilima addresses a crowd of supporters
Malawian Vice President and United Transformation Movement presidential candidate Saulos Chilima addresses a crowd of supporters during the last campaign rally on May 18, 2019, in Lilongwe, ahead of general elections.

A devout Catholic, he has been a bitter critic of alleged corruption, nepotism, and cronyism in the ruling party. Prior to being hand-picked by Mutharika, Chilima was a high-earning senior executive in multinational companies including Unilever, Coca-Cola, and Airtel.

He has run a colourful and energetic youth-targeted campaign on a platform of eradicating poverty, fighting graft and creating employment. But it is uncertain if his new party can make a major impact. His wife Mary made waves ahead of the election, releasing a slick and much-admired rap video extolling her husband’s candidacy.

The opposition leader

Former evangelist Lazarus Chakwera, 64, leads Malawi’s oldest party, the Malawi Congress Party, which is the main opposition party and ruled Malawi from 1964 to 1994 under Hastings Banda’s one-party rule.

Chakwera led the party into the 2014 elections, coming second to Mutharika at the polls and he now hopes to go one better. The Malawi Congress Party has lost all five presidential elections since 1994 but Chakwera has made great efforts to re-energise its base.

Opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader and presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera waves to the crowd
Opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader and presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera (L) waves to the crowd as he arrives at the last campaign rally on May 18, 2019, in Lilongwe, ahead of general elections.

Prior to becoming the leader of the party, Chakwera was president of the Malawi Assemblies of God from 1989 to 2013. He was born to a subsistence farmer whose two older sons died in infancy. He was named Lazarus after the biblical character who was raised from the dead. In March, Chakwera secured the high-profile support of former president Joyce Banda, formerly of the ruling DPP.

Banda came to power in 2012 following the death of Bingu wa Mutharika, but she fled the country after losing the 2014 election amid graft allegations that have never led to charges. She returned last year.

The young outsider

Atupele Muluzi, 41, is the leader of the United Democratic Front and the son of Bakili Muluzi who governed the country from 1994 until 2004. After his party came fourth in the 2014 elections, Muluzi allied himself with the ruling DPP and is currently health minister.

Atupele Muluzi speaks during a press conference
Malawi’s United Democratic Front (UDF) party President Atupele Muluzi speaks during a press conference

He has drawn large crowds to his rallies, but his alliance with the government may have cost him votes.

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North Africa Politics

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi denies allegations of corruption

Sisi told a youth conference in Cairo on Saturday the accusations were “lies and slander” designed to “break the will of Egyptians”

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Abdel Fattah al-Sisi denies allegations of corruption

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Saturday flatly denied allegations of corruption made by an Egyptian businessman, assuring he was “honest and faithful” to his people and army.

Videos posted online from outside the country since early September accusing Sisi and Egypt’s military of graft have gone viral, sparking rare debate about the army’s growing economic empire. 

The man behind them, 45-year-old construction contractor Mohamed Aly, claims that authorities have misappropriated millions of Egyptian pounds in public funds. 

He also alleges the military owes him hundreds of millions of pounds for projects his company was commissioned to build, including palatial residences for Sisi.

Sisi told a youth conference in Cairo on Saturday the accusations were “lies and slander” designed to “break the will (of Egyptians) and make them lose all hope and confidence”. 

Quoted by local TV, Sisi said he decided to speak out despite “calls from all state bodies” for him not to respond. 

“Your son is honest, faithful and loyal,” he added.

Aly — who says he has fled to Spain — has not provided evidence to back up his claims and the Egyptian armed forces declined an AFP request to comment.

In the footage, released in instalments, Aly mocks Sisi – a former army chief – and lambasts the military.

In the first video, posted on September 2, Aly blasted Sisi, without naming him, saying: “You say the Egyptian people are very poor and that we should tighten our belts.

“(But) you are throwing away billions and your men are wasting millions.”

In a speech on Egypt’s economy two years ago, Sisi had said “We (Egyptians) are very poor”.

The reality is different, according to Aly, who says that some of the projects the military asked him to build included a luxurious guest house for Sisi in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and a palace in Cairo.

“People must know how their money is being spent,” Aly says in one video.

For decades, the military has played a key but opaque economic role, producing everything from washing machines to pasta, alongside building roads and operating gas stations.

Since the arrival of Sisi, who toppled his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi in 2013, the army’s economic involvement has been more visible amid austerity measures and rising prices.

The army spokesman said recently on a popular TV show that the armed forces oversee rather than “manage” some 2,300 projects nationwide, employing five million civilians. 

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189 Nigerians repatriated from South Africa after xenophobic attacks

More than 600 Nigerians are expected to return from South Africa this week, the Nigerian government has said

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189 Nigerians repatriated from South Africa after xenophobic attacks
People disembark from a plane as a first group of Nigerians repatriated from South Africa following xenophobic violence arrives in Lagos, on September 11, 2019. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Almost 200 Nigerian migrants were repatriated from South Africa on Wednesday following a wave of xenophobic violence that swept through the country and sparked sharp exchanges between the two countries.

A flight carrying 189 Nigerians landed in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, with some of those onboard punching the air and singing their national anthem while waving pictures of burnt shops.

“I ran for my life, they would have killed me,” said Samson Aliyu, a clothes seller who lived in South Africa for two years.

READ: Police arrests several shop looters in South Africa

“They burnt my shop, everything,” he added.

189 Nigerians repatriated from South Africa after xenophobic attacks
Air Peace flight attendants hold placards to denounce xenophobia as a first group of Nigerians repatriated from South Africa following xenophobic violence arrives in Lagos, on September 11, 2019. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

More than 600 Nigerians are expected to return from South Africa this week, the Nigerian government has said.

“We were expecting 317 but from the information we have 189 are on board,” said Nigeria’s minister for diaspora affairs Abike Dabiri-Erewa.

“There was about a five-hour delay courtesy of the South African authorities who actually frustrated this return of Nigerians,” she said, blaming authorities in Johannesburg for failing to help Nigerians without travel documents.

READ: Nigeria plans to repatriate 600 citizens from South Africa

“There was a lot of frustration in getting them back home but we’re glad that they will be here,” she added.

Leading the returnees in singing the national anthem, Dabiri-Erewa promised the government would provide financial support.

Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission Abike Dabiri-Erewa speaks after a first group of Nigerians repatriated from South Africa following xenophobic violence arrived in Lagos, on September 11, 2019. (Photo by Olukayode Jaiyeola/NurPhoto)

Johannesburg and surrounding areas were rocked by a series of deadly attacks on foreigners last week, including many directed against Nigerian-owned businesses and properties.

At least 10 people were killed in the violence and hundreds of shops destroyed while more than 420 people were arrested.

READ: South Africa vows to tackle xenophobic attacks against foreigners

No Nigerian was killed but the violence led to condemnation across Africa, particularly in Nigeria, fuelling diplomatic tensions between the continent’s two leading nations.

The violence also prompted reprisal attacks against South African firms in Nigeria and the temporary closing of South Africa’s diplomatic missions in Lagos and Abuja.

READ: African migrants seek refuge amidst xenophobic attacks in South Africa

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Nigerian court upholds President Muhammadu Buhari’s February election win

The opposition party says it will head to the country’s supreme court to appeal the ruling of the lower court

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Nigerian court upholds President Muhammadu Buhari's February election win

A Nigerian court on Wednesday upheld President Muhammadu Buhari’s election victory earlier this year, dismissing a request by opposition parties to overturn the result over claims of voting irregularities.

Buhari, 76, won a second term with 56 per cent of the February poll, which was long-delayed.

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who came in second with 41 per cent, immediately called the result a “sham”. Opposition parties lodged a legal challenge against the result in March.

Abubakar, 72, said he had been cheated of the chance to lead Africa’s most populous state after a conspiracy between the electoral commission INEC and Buhari’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

However, on Wednesday, the presidential election tribunal found there was no evidence of the opposition’s claims.

“This petition is, hereby, dismissed in its entirety,” judge Mohammed Garba said on Wednesday.

The ruling was widely expected, with Buhari’s government taking office last month.

Buhari has insisted that the election was free and fair, claiming the vote was “another milestone in Nigeria’s democratic development”. 

In a press statement reacting to the verdict, the opposition party says it will head to the country’s supreme court to appeal the ruling of the lower court.

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