Judge Bingu by the company he keeps

Just a year ago he was the darling of the donors and the Chairperson of the African Union.

Richard Lee's picture

Author

Strategic communications for WWF

October 18th, 2011

It's remarkable how quickly things have changed for Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Just a year ago he was the darling of the donors and the Chairperson of the African Union. Feted by all and sundry, he jetted off to Seoul to mingle with the high and mighty at the G20 summit - sharing a stage with the world's most powerful presidents.

Now look at him. He hosts a COMESA party in his own backyard and the only leaders he can attract are Bashir, Mugabe, Mswati and Nkurunziza. 

As the old adage says - the world should judge Bingu on the company he keeps. And it's some company - a president indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, a leader who has run his country increasingly-brutally into the ground and a dictatorial absolute monarch. Eritrea's autocratic ruler, Isaisa Aferworki, was apparently due to join the happy throng but was unable to make it.

How Bingu must long for the days when he was part of the in-crowd not the pariah's club. But then he only has himself to blame.

Over the last two years, his government has passed a raft of repressive and anti-democratic legislation, publicly incited attacks against civil society activists and other dissenting voices, presided over a fuel and forex crisis and seen 19 demonstrators gunned down by the police. And then he kicked out the British High Commissioner in a fit of pique.

No wonder most leaders no longer want to be seen in the same photo as him.

 

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