Malawi: President Mutharika`s Long Absence and Other Questions Arising

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After a solid month-long absence, followed by the massive hashtag #BringBackMutharika tweets by Malawians on social media, demanding to know the whereabouts of their president, President Peter Mutharika (76) of Malawi, finally arrived home on October 16 from his unexplained oversea visit.

Waving at his supporters at the airport with his left hand, President Mutharika, who is indeed right-handed, did, in fact, more to increase speculations on the reason behind his long absence. Since President Peter Mutharika, who landed in New York on September 16 for the UN general assembly, which ended on September 26, did not return home until October 16, many were wondering what had kept their president away from home. Interestingly or rather unusually, the President neither held the traditional press conference on arrival nor talked to the journalists immediately he arrived. Rather, he assured Malawians – five days after his arrival – that he was in good health. Defending using his left hand to wave to the supporters, he intimated that he was diagnosed with rheumatism on his right. Ordinarily, these explanations would have satisfied any curiosity, but in Africa, where many distrust their leaders, President`s explanations seemed to have fallen on a deaf ear. Sadly, it did not help that Africa seems to be a continent where it is abnormal for leaders to disclose their medical condition, due to their political survival, many have simply linked the President`s long absence to undisclosed health problems.   There is a saying in Africa that All lizards lie on their bellies, but nobody knows which of them suffers stomach ache. Worse still, hearing President Mutharika`s spokesperson insisting that the President was running the country, during his absence, via Skype, many began to wonder why the President did not delegate his power to his Vice-President, Saulos Chilima, who constitutionally is (should have been) the acting President in the President`s absence.

Interestingly, if President Mutharika would admit that his long absence was on health grounds, his Vice-President, whom some regard as a political non-insider would, by virtue of the constitution, take over the running of the government, albeit temporarily, till the President is declared medically fit to resume his duty. With this in mind, many questions are being raised in different quarters – especially amongst Malawians.

Was the President`s absence caused by health problem? Why did the President refuse to delegate his duties to his Vice ““ President in his absence? Are potential presidential aspirants already systematically battling secretly for the highest office? Please share your opinions.