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In Malawi, alleged $3.9m bribe hunts Mutharika’s presidency

The pressure to see off Malawi’s President, Peter Mutharika, from office is gathering momentum. The springboard for the unrest is a food scandal in which Mutharika’s name has been mentioned

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The pressure to see off Malawi’s President, Peter Mutharika, from office is gathering momentum. The springboard for the unrest is a food scandal in which Mutharika’s name has been mentioned.

A leaked report by the country’s anti-graft agency had accused him of receiving a kickback from a 2.8bn kwacha ($3.9m; £2.8m) contract to supply food to the police.

The report claims a businessman deposited 145m kwacha into an account belonging to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), of which the president is the sole signatory.

The president’s spokesperson said the claims were “unfounded” and that Mr Mutharika had done nothing wrong. Civil rights organisations have nonetheless given him 14 days to resign, or say they will take to the streets.

The political standoff began after a report by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) leaked onto the internet in the last week of June.

The body has been investigating a Malawi police food supply contract, worth around 2.8bn kwacha, that was awarded to a firm owned by businessman Zameer Karim, called Pioneer Investments.

The report alleges that the head of finance of Malawi’s police, Innocent Bottomani, and Mr Karim had “connived” to award Pioneer Investment a contract to provide 500,000 food ration packs.

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Days after the contract was signed, Pioneer Investment allegedly asked for a change to the agreed price from 2.3bn kwacha to nearly 2.8bn – the report says the change was fraudulently approved by Mr Bottomani.

When Mr Karim was paid for supplying the food ration packs in 2016, he allegedly deposited 145m kwacha into a DPP bank account that is reportedly managed by President Mutharika.

Both Mr Karim and Mr Bottomani have denied involvement in the alleged fraud.

The president initially called the report “fake news” and a ploy by his detractors to scupper his chances at next year’s elections.

“I did not personally benefit in any way from the contract and that’s why I am concerned about the lack of truth. I am worried about what our country has become in as far as peddling of fake news on social media is concerned,” President Mutharika told Reuters.

His office later acknowledged the existence of the DPP bank account on 1 July, telling the Malawi newspaper The Daily Times that the account was set up only to support the party’s fundraising activities.

President Mutharika has been defiant in the face of mounting criticism. He told a DPP party congress that he was not running for “personal gain”.
“I only get 40% from my [monthly] salary of 2.7 million kwacha and the rest goes to government.”

Various civil society groups, the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP), and the quasi-religious body, the Public Affairs Committee (PAC), have called for his resignation.

Politics

Exiled Ivory Coast politician, Charles Blé Goudé, returns home to cheering crowd. Old wounds opened?

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Exiled Ivorian politician, Charles Blé Goudé who was the right-hand man of former Ivorian president, Laurent Gbagbo, is back home.

The Street General as he is fondly called is said to be allegedly involved in the violence that followed the 2011 presidential elections, returned home on Saturday after more than eight years abroad.

Thousands of supporters turned up to receive him at the airport after his arrival on a flight from Ghana’s capital, Accra, that was preceded by a heavy police presence.

Charles Blé Goudé while addressing the crowd said “in reality when I was told to come, it was frank, it was sincere. That is why I thank you here in Yopougon, the Ivorian authorities for having facilitated (my return, ed.) among you. If I see you today it is thanks to them.”

He thanked the Ivorian authorities for facilitating his return and said his “duty” was to “support the peace process”.

“I have arrived, I will gather all the information. In this same place, we will hold a political rally where I will discuss all the issues. And as the press is here, I ask them to come in a few weeks to a big press conference where we will discuss all the issues, I mean all the issues”, promised Blé Goudé.

The politician was arrested in Ghana in 2013 following the post-electoral crisis that engulfed the west African country in 2010. But the homecoming seems to be approved by the incumbent president, Alassane Ouattara, who in July pardoned his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé’s principal in the push for national reconciliation.

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Congo DR electoral body, CENI, announces date of presidential election

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The electoral authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Commission Electorale Nationale Independente (CENI) have announced dates for the next presidential election.

CENI on Saturday said the election will take place on December 20th next year.

The commission outlined several challenges, including the logistics of transporting ballot materials thousands of miles, health concerns about Ebola and COVID-19, and unrest that has forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

The incumbent president, Felix Tshisekedi, who already expressed his intention to run again. He might be running against Martin Fayulu, who continues to claim that he won the 2018 election and was denied victory.

Terrorist activities, largely by a rebel group, M23 have drawn reactions from stakeholders in the East Africa region and global observers. The M23 is a rebel military group based in eastern areas of the DRC, mainly operating in the province of North Kivu.

According to the electoral authorities, insecurity remains the main challenge for the next elections.

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