In September 2011, two months after the devastating anti-government protests in Malawi which left 19 people dead and in the midst of a violent and coordinated crackdown on political critics, a young student activist, Robert Chasowa was found dead on his university campus. Police ruled the death a suicide, but his family, friends and fellow activists believed that the injuries Chasowa suffered were inconsistent with a suicide and instead pointed to murder – one which they believed was politically motivated. However the political climate under former President Bingu wa Mutharika which imposed a veil of secrecy and oppression of dissent meant there was little chance of the truth emerging and those responsible being brought to justice.   

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With just over two months before the 19th African Union Summit kicks off in Malawi, it is being asked whether Malawi will allow indicted Sudanese president, Omar Al-Bashir, to attend the Summit. It has been reported that Africa’s newest president, Joyce Banda, does not want to host Bashir and has asked the AU to encourage Sudan to send someone else in his place. This decision, at least on the face of it, is positive and certainly the right thing to do.  The way in which she is handling the issue however, is perhaps not what one would expect from an African leader that has, in a very short space of time, proved herself to be a no-nonsense and forward thinking president.

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The new President of Malawi, Joyce Banda, has demonstrated in her first week in charge that her administration will be vastly different to her predecessor’s.  Bingu wa Mutharika had been in power in Malawi since 2004 but his death on 5 April 2012 came in the wake of increased opposition to his leadership and the culture of violent oppression of dissent that he had presided over in the recent past.  Although President Banda appears to have recommitted Malawi to democracy and the rule of law, SALC today wrote to the new president highlighting some of the most pressing matters needing her attention.

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