Bingu responds to calls to resign, Muluzi demand his son’s release

Mutharika asked to resign in 60 days

Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika has responded to calls for him to resign by saying he could rule Malawi forever if he wanted to.

“If I wanted to, I would use the majority I have and amend the constitution to rule for another term, or forever,” he told supporters at a rally.

“I will not resign because that’s not what the law says. I will only be able to do that when my term expires in 2014,” Mutharika said.

While Mutharika was saying this, his arch-foe and former President Bakili Muluzi, said he wants his son out. “My son should be released unconditionally…I am warning that nothing should happen to him,” Muluzi said from his base in Cape Town.

A loose alliance of opposition and civil society groups backed by influential religious leaders last week gave him a two-month deadline to step down or face even larger protests.

Anti-government protesters set fire to a police station in the capital Lilongwe on Monday, raising tension in the country, rocked last July by the police killing of 20 people during nationwide demonstrations against government policies and suspected corruption.

Malawi’s budget has traditionally relied on aid for about 40 percent of its funding but major donors Britain and the United States have frozen packages worth hundreds of millions of dollars over concerns about human rights abuses and creeping autocracy under Mutharika.

An IMF mission is already in the country to look at progress made and the US government aid agency – Millennium Challenge Corporation- made a decision on whether to continue with the operational hold on the $350.6 million energy grant of not. Malawi government, according to the US embassy, will be notified about the decision today.

Malawi officials have been hoping to open up an aid lifeline in meetings this week with a visiting delegation from the Fund.

The IMF’s aid programme is on hold due to disagreements between Lilongwe and the lender. Mutharika has defied calls by the IMF to devalue its kwacha currency.

Authorities have clamped down on dissent in the past week by arresting a leading opposition youth leader and the head of the government’s human rights commission which blamed Mutharika’s forces for the deadly crackdown on the July protests.

Police have stepped up their presence in major cities after sporadic protests and violence in the past several days.

Malawi has averaged economic growth of more than 7 percent annually in recent years, but life has become increasingly difficult in the past year due to shortages of fuel, medicine and foreign currency.