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Malawi’s arch-rivals form pact ahead of elections

Malawi’s ex-president Bakili Muluzi has formed an alliance with the party that he toppled 15 years ago, officials said on Thursday, in the latest political shake-up before polls next month.

Muluzi’s United Democratic Front (UDF) is now backing the party of the notorious former dictator Kamuzu Banda, top UDF official Humphrey Mvula said.

Banda and his Malawi Congress Party (MCP) ruled the poor southern African nation with an iron fist for three decades before losing to Muluzi in the first multi-party elections in 1994.

Despite years of bitter feuding between the rivals, Muluzi now appears to be backing MCP’s presidential candidate John Tembo in the May 19 election, when he will face incumbent President Bingu wa Mutharika.

”Its a winning strategy,” said Mvula. ”The two parties have agreed to work together towards an election coalition with the view of achieving common goals.”

Tembo and Muluzi met in the commercial capital Blantyre late on Wednesday to ink the pact, officials said.

”Our supporters must support this cause,” Muluzi said on local radio.

Tembo was for decades a top aide to Banda, and Muluzi’s supporters had often accused the dictator’s party of human rights atrocities.

Muluzi once arrested Banda, who was in his 90s, over the mysterious deaths of four prominent politicians in 1983.

Banda, who died in 1997, was acquitted of the charges.

Muluzi had sought to run for president again this year, even though he has already reached the two-term limit set out in the Constitution.

He is arguing before a court that the limit applies only to consecutive terms, but has yet to receive a ruling.

His candidacy was also complicated by corruption charges, accusing him of embezzling $12-million in aid money during his time in office. — Sapa-AFP

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