Malawi’s President Threatens To Close Newspapers, Expel Donors In Response To Reports Of Food Shortages

“Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika threatened to chase donors away from the southern African nation on Thursday and close newspapers for reporting that more than one million people are in need of food aid,” Reuters reports.

“I am tired. This country is not run by you donors or the newspapers in this country. This country is run by me,” he said, adding, “I will be forced to close down your newspapers and if any donor dares say something, you can go away” (8/26).

Some agriculture experts have said that Malawi harvested 2.4 million tons of crops, leaving a surplus of more than 400,000 tons for export. “But last week, the independent weekly Malawi News quoted a food security forecast by the Southern African Development Community [SADC] that said more than a million Malawians face starvation because of poor rains in several districts,” Agence France-Presse reports, noting that this was the president’s “first public attack on privately owned newspapers” (8/26).

PANA/Afrique en ligne looks at the farm-input subsidy program “that has seen Malawi posting surpluses in grain production for three consecutive growing seasons,” but reports that donor nations describe it “as unsustainable” (8/27). According to VOA News, “[o]bservers say the [SADC] report undermines Mr. Mutharika’s food security policy which initially attracted both local and international recognition.” Humphrey Mvula, the director of research for the opposition party United Democratic Front, “described President Mutharika’s threats as unfortunate, adding that Malawi could be plunged into crisis if donors pull out their financial support for the country’s budget,” the news service continues (Clottey, 8/26).  

According to Reuters, donor “aid is equivalent to about 20 percent of Malawi’s economy. However, more than half of its children aged under five were suffering from malnutrition in 2008, according to World Bank’s 2008 Little Data Book on Africa” (8/26).

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