In January 96, Malawi, together with 11 other countries in
southern Africa, started negotiations with regard to. the
creation of a free trade area. At the same time, the
government announced that it repealed a number of laws
affecting foreign investment in rural areas.
In 1997, the United States began the training of Malawi
soldiers. the formation of an African «peace force».
The drought that affected large African regions almost
completely wiped out the River Shire, one of the country's
most important waterways. Foreign experts recommended
reducing the use of water in agriculture and instead
importing foreign food as well as continuously
industrializing the economy. In 1998, it was estimated that
the underground water reserves in the region would need 1400
years to regain the former level.
Former Minister of Public Works Abdul Pillane was formally
charged with corruption in January 1999 after it was
determined he had received money from a South African
construction company. In February, it was determined that
the cholera epidemic that had hit 15,000 people had cost 500
lives in 1998-99. In April, President Muluzi opened the
country's first TV station.
After an election campaign and an election plagued by
irregularities, President Muluzi was re-elected, while his
party gained 47.3% of the vote, giving 93 of Parliament's
192 seats. In December, MPs complained to the finance
minister about their wages, which they felt were too low. In
February 2000, the president asked the entire government to
resign. A number of the ministers, including Finance
Minister Cassim Chilumpha, were characterized by unreliable
countries in the West as unreliable.
After Muluzi accused the donor countries of intervening
in the country's domestic policy, in January 2002 Denmark
ceased its entire assistance program to the country. It had
a volume of DKK 87 million. US $ for the period 2000-04. The
interruption meant that new development and environmental
programs could not be initiated.
In 2002, the country was declared in a state of disaster
due to the high number of deaths due to food shortages. The
government was accused of selling the country's grain to
Kenya and for now forcing the population to eat immature
grain. The famine appeared to extend into the following
year, and the distribution of food was hampered by the poor
constitution of the roads and railways. 70% of the
population was threatened by hunger and the elderly and
children were the most vulnerable.
In August 2003, the opposition party formed the Alliance
for Democracy with defunct MPs, and in early 2004, Vice
President Justin Malewezi resigned and joined the opposition
in preparation for the presidential election.
In the May 2004 elections, Bingu wa Mutharika of the UDF
was elected president with 36% of the vote. His main
opponent, John Tembo of the Malawi Congress Party, gained
27% but in return won most seats in parliament. In third
place, Gwanda Chakuamba followed with 26%. He accused the
Supreme Electoral Commission of delaying the election result
and of entering into an agreement with the UDF to manipulate
the result. That same month, his party urged the Supreme
Court to cancel the result and print re-election as a result
of the manipulation and other serious irregularities. EU
observers agreed on the need for transparency in the
counting of votes, and further stated that the election was
free but not fair. Charles Mhango, a lawyer for Chakuamba's
party, stated that the irregularities would be the same
during a countdown of votes. He further stated that a number
of polling stations had not yet filed their ballot when the
Election Commission announced the final result.
At least 4 people were killed during the protests
following the announcement of Bingu wa Mutharika's victory.
The Malawi Congress Party - the country's second largest
opposition party - filed an official legal complaint against
the election results, demanding a review of the entire
electoral process. The party's deputy chairman, Nicholas
Dausi, declared that the real winner of the election was
John Tembo. In the end, though, Mutharika was declared
victorious. International observers criticized the
circumstances of the election. The government subsequently
declared that it would distribute retroviral brake
medication to victims of HIV/AIDS.