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Malawi ex-ministers held over 'coup' plot

11 March 2013, 16:39

Blantyre - Malawi police on Monday arrested at least two ex-ministers for an alleged coup plot aimed at preventing President Joyce Banda coming to power last year, sparking protests met with police tear gas.

"They are likely to be charged with treason," a senior police officer who did not want to identified told AFP.

The pair were named as Henry Mussa, then minister for local government and Kondwani Nankhumwa, a deputy minister of foreign affairs.

The arrest of the "coup plotters" sent shock waves through Malawi, fuelling opposition to Banda's government, which has been much fetted by the international community.

Malawi police fired teargas at around 500 people protesting the arrests outside police headquarters, but the protesters failed to disperse.

Another group of protesters, estimated in the thousands, gathered nearby, blocking the main highway to the capital with boulders and branches.

Mutharika's death

The plot is alleged to have taken place amid the chaos of president Bingu wa Mutharika's death in April.

Last week an inquest ruled that Mutharika died of a heart attack on the way to hospital after collapsing at State House.

But his death was not confirmed for two days and his body was flown to South Africa as would-be successors sought to buy time.

Six ministers, including Mussa, held a late-night news conference a day after Mutharika's death to insist he was still alive.

At the time Banda was the vice president who under the constitution was next in line to become the president.

But Mutharika had been grooming his brother Peter, who was foreign affairs minister, to succeed him.

On Monday an AFP correspondent saw Peter entering a police station in Blantyre, but it was unclear whether he has been charged with involvement in the coup.

Banda was eventually sworn in on 7 April, after backroom dealings.

A month after coming to power Banda alleged the coup plot was "against this country and not me. It's a national issue."



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