August 26, 2010 / 4:40 PM / in 7 years

Malawi president threatens aid donors, newspapers

BLANTYRE (Reuters) - Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika threatened to chase donors away from the southern African nation on Thursday and close newspapers for reporting that more than one million people are in need of food aid.

<p>Malawi's President Bingu Wa Mutharika talks before a lunch with Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, September 16, 2009. REUTERS/Roberto Jayme</p>

Wa Mutharika dismissed a Southern Africa Development Community study printed in a local paper, which said his country faces a food crisis due to crop failure.

He also warned aid donors against supporting local newspapers with what he viewed as false reports.

“I am tired. This country is not run by you donors or the newspapers in this country. This country is run by me,” he said at an agricultural fair in the commercial city of Blantyre.

The report, backed by the British government’s department for overseas development, said an estimated 1.5 million people need food aid in Malawi despite improved harvests.

The influential donor community -- mainly governments from the European Union and the United States -- have also questioned the country’s plans to export 300,000 tonnes of maize to Zimbabwe this year.

“I will be forced to close down your newspapers and if any donor dares say something, you can go away,” wa Mutharika said.

Overseas aid is equivalent to about 20 percent of Malawi’s economy. However, more than half of its children aged under five were suffering from malnutrition in 2008, according to World Bank’s 2008 Little Data Book on Africa.

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