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Malawi's New President Sacks Police Chief

Malawi's new President Joyce Banda has dismissed the country's police chief Peter Mukhito just two days after assuming the top post, state media reported Monday.

Mukhito, who was appointed two years ago, was replaced to the post by Lot Dzonzi. Although the state media did not disclose the exact reason for Mukhito's removal, several news agencies indicated that it might have been prompted by his alleged mishandling of last year's anti-government riots. At least 19 people were killed in the police response to the riots.

Joyce Banda was sworn into office on Saturday, following the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika last week due to a heart attack. Although Mutharika suffered a cardiac arrest on Thursday, his death was confirmed only on Saturday.

Under the constitution, Banda was in line to take over as head of state with the law stipulating that the vice-president would automatically become head of state if the sitting president is either incapacitated or dies.

She is also not required to call fresh elections as Mutharika has already completed more than half his term in office. Nevertheless, there were speculations that Mutharika's inner circle would attempt to install his brother, Foreign Minister Peter Mutharika, to the top post instead of Banda.

Banda, was elected to office along with Mutharika in the 2009 election. Nonetheless, she later fell out with Mutharika after a row over succession and was expelled from the Democratic Progressive Party in 2010. She now heads her own People's Party.

Mutharika was first elected to power in 2004. He subsequently quit the United Democratic Front party, accusing senior party members of opposing his campaign against corruption. He then formed the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and was overwhelmingly re-elected for a second term in office in 2009. His opponents say Mutharika became increasingly authoritarian after his re-election.

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world and an estimated 75 percent of impoverished country's population subsist on a dole of less than $1 a day. Even though Malawi once had a fast growing economy, with tobacco exports being a major foreign exchange earner, exports have since dwindled drastically.

The impoverished country is currently facing acute fuel and foreign currently shortages, as many major donor nations, including the United States and Britain, suspended their aid over the brutal crackdown on last year's anti-government protests as well as Mutharika's growing dictatorial tendencies.

by RTT Staff Writer

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