Bakili Elson Muluzi was the president of Malawi from 1994 to 2004 and was Chairman of the United Democratic Front (UDF) until 2009. He succeeded Hastings Kamuzu Banda as Malawi’s president. He also served in Banda’s cabinet as Minister without Portfolio, before retiring in 1980.
Muluzi was born on March 17, 1943 in predominantly Yao district of Machinga.
Muluzi was the candidate of the opposition UDF in the May 1994 presidential election, the country’s first multiparty election. He won the election with 47% of the vote, defeating Malawi’s leader since independence, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
He was re-elected in June 1999, taking 52.4% of the vote and defeating challenger Gwanda Chakuamba who was the leader of the opposition movement, Mgwirizano Coalition.
In 2002 he proposed an amendment to Malawi’s Republic Constitution that would have allowed him to run for a third term, but this was abandoned, after the National Assembly of Malawi Members of Parliament, courts, and demonstrations blocked the move.
After serving two terms, he handed over power to his successor after the May 2004 election, in which UDF candidate Bingu wa Mutharika was elected to succeed Muluzi as President.
Muluzi came to lead the UDF after leaving the Banda government, and he became an advocate for democracy. Muluzi’s time as President was marred by controversy and scandal, particularly due to the sale of Malawi’s reserves of maize to other countries shortly before the onset of a drought, which resulted in famine throughout the country. Despite international pressure, the millions of dollars realized from the sale of Malawi’s food reserves have never been turned over, and it is widely suspected that it wound up in foreign accounts belonging to Muluzi and his supporters.
Even with the controversy and questionable dealings, Muluzi was a popular leader, particularly in southern part of the country. He remains the Chairman of the UDF, and after a dispute with his successor as President, Mutharika, the latter left the UDF and formed his own party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), in February 2005. In April 2005, Muluzi apologized to Malawians for choosing Mutharika as his successor “and imposing him on the country”
On July 27, 2006, Muluzi was arrested on fraud and corruption charges; he was released on bail later that day. Hours after his arrest, the chief investigator Gustav Kaliwo was suspended by President Mutharika and Director of Public Prosecutions Ishmael Wadi said he had no choice but to drop the charges.
Dr. Bakili Muluzi was once more arrested on 26 February 2009 and initially charged with 86 counts of corruption and abuse of office. He is being accused of allegedly diverting 1.7 billion Malawi Kwacha (US $11m) of donor money into his personal account. The said money, among others, came from the Republic of China, the Kingdom of Morocco and Libya.
As a former Commonwealth leader, Muluzi was invited by the Commonwealth Secretary-General to Chair the Commonwealth Observer Group which observed the 2012 General Election in Lesotho.
2009 presidential candidacy
In early March 2007, with many prominent members of the UDF calling for Muluzi to run for president in 2009, the party said that he would have until March 11 to declare whether he intended to run. Accordingly, on that date Muluzi announced that he would seek the party’s nomination as its presidential candidate.
The question of whether Muluzi is eligible to run again has raised some controversy. Because the constitution refers to a limit of two consecutive terms, this could be regarded as enabling Muluzi to run again after being out of office for a term.
The Director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Alex Nampota, announced on March 17, 2008 that the ACB intended to prosecute Muluzi for allegedly diverting about 11 million dollars of donor money into his personal account; Nampota said that the ACB had asked the courts to lift an injunction that prevented it from questioning Muluzi. Kennedy Makwangwala, the Secretary-General of the UDF, denounced this as “political persecution”.
On April 24, 2008, a UDF convention chose Muluzi as the party’s 2009 presidential candidate. He received 1,950 votes against 38 for then Vice-President Cassim Chilumpha.
On March 20, 2009 the Malawi Electoral Commission passed a judgement to bar Bakili Muluzi from running for the presidency for the third time. Muluzi challenged this, but on May 16, only three days before the election, the Constitutional Court ruled that Muluzi could not run again.
By that point, Muluzi and the UDF had thrown their support behind the candidacy of John Tembo, the President of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). Muluzi announced on December 23, 2009, that he was retiring from active politics and that Friday Jumbe was replacing him as UDF leader.
Muluzi is Malawi’s first Muslim President. He was married to two wives, Annie Chidzira Muluzi and Patricia Shanil Muluzi, while in office. He went through a divorce where he married Shanil Muluzi after divorcing Annie Muluzi.