* Freeze in aid pushed Malawi eocnomy to the brink
* Malawi wins support from Britain on Bashir
By Mabvuto Banda
LILONGWE, June 1 (Reuters) – Britain on Friday released 33 million pounds ($51 million) to Malawi to help new President Joyce Banda rebuild an economy left reeling after her predecessor soured ties with donors whose aid had propped up the budget.
Banda took office in April after President Bingu wa Mutharika died of a heart attack, pledging to restore frozen aid from donors including former colonial master Britain that traditionally accounted for about 40 percent of the budget.
British International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell told Reuters the money has been fast-tracked to fund programmes in agriculture, education and health.
“The money is in today,” Mitchell said.
Malawi has not received budget support from donors since January last year, creating a budget gap of $121 million in the current fiscal year which ends in July.
The African Development Bank has pledged to give Malawi $45 million in three tranches, while the World Bank says it will work with the IMF to quickly respond to Malawi’s needs.
Mutharika, a self-proclaimed economist-in-chief, picked fights with major donors over the last year, telling them Malawi did not need their cash.
His policies sent the economy into a tailspin and the country into diplomatic isolation. He was globally condemned when his police killed 20 civilians in anti-government protests in July 2011.
Banda has tried to repair the diplomatic damage and won support from Mitchell for her calls to bar Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir from attending the African Union heads of state summit in July in Malawi.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for Bashir to face charges of masterminding genocide and other war crimes during his nation’s Darfur conflict.
Malawi under Mutharika angered international donors when it played host to Bashir last year. ICC member countries like Malawi are supposed to arrest people wanted by the global court.