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Last Updated: Friday, 10 August 2007, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
Profile: Bingu wa Mutharika
By Raphael Tenthani
BBC, Blantyre

Bingu wa Mutharika has nursed ambitions of ruling Malawi since the Hastings Kamuzu Banda dictatorship began to unravel in 1993.

Bingu wa Mutharika (back) and Bakili Muluzi (front)
Mr Mutharika (back) has fallen out with his predecessor Bakili Muluzi (front)
But having achieved his goal last year, he could now become the first African president to be impeached.

His career began when Mr Banda, Malawi's founding father, became president in 1964.

Mr Mutharika became the first Malawian administrator in the civil service, which was then still dominated by the British.

But during the so-called "cabinet crisis" in the same year, he fled Malawi for fear that Mr Banda would associate him with the rebelling ministers.

Mr Mutharika's studies took him to Zambia, India and the United States, where he eventually obtained a doctorate in economics.

He then began a long career as an international civil servant, working for many international bodies, including the World Bank.

Changing names

Born Ryson Webster Thom in the southern tea-growing district of Thyolo in 1934, the schoolmaster's son adopted the more African name of Bingu Mutharika during the 1960s when pan-Africanism was sweeping across the continent.

He later added the prefix 'wa' between his names to disguise his identity from Mr Banda's state security, who were hunting down his opponents around the world.

President Bingu wa Mutharika
Mr Mutharika has been keen to lead Malawi for many years
In 1992 he became a founding member of the then underground political pressure group, the United Democratic Front (UDF).

The party was later transformed into a political party and eventually ruled Malawi for 10 years after the first multi-party elections were organized.

Mr Mutharika's first try for the presidency was in the 1999 elections but he came last among the five candidates.

He disappeared from public view for a while but later resurfaced as a surprise presidential candidate for the UDF after President Bakili Muluzi failed in his bid to be allowed a third term.

Mr Muluzi, who dubbed himself the "political engineer", sold Mr Mutharika to Malawians as the "economic engineer" and did all the campaigning on behalf of his protege - so much that it was a complete surprise that the two fell out immediately after the elections.

To seal the strained relations between the two former political buddies, Mr Mutharika quit the UDF and founded his own Democratic Progressive Party.

Mr Mutharika blamed his decision to quit the UDF on his former political associates whom he accused of frowning upon his tough anti-corruption drive.

The UDF has been in the forefront of attempts to impeach Mr Mutharika over accusations that he used state money to set up his party and other charges of going against the constitution. He denies the charges, saying they are politically motivated.

Mr Mutharika, a church-going Catholic has four grown-up children by his Zimbabwean wife, Ethel, who died in May 2007.




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