Africa’s first female president Sirleaf tips Malawi’s JB

Africa’s first female President, Liberian leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has advised Malawi’s fourth president Joyce Mtila Banda to be strong headed and makes sure that she build a strongbase at home first before moving on to establish herself to the rest of the world.

The Liberian president says the Malawian leader has joined a very exclusive club in a continent full of male chauvinism.

“Being a female leader in a continent with of more than 50 countries with male dominated leaders is not an easy task, there are so many challenges,”  Sirleaf told  BBC.

Banda and Sirleaf : African female presidents

The Liberian President however said that she is happy that she has someone to turn to when the chips are down.

“This means that I no longer will be lonely. The potential for more women leadership at the highestlevel is now being made even stronger and better,” the Africa’s first female president said.

But Sirleaf advises the Malawian leader who ascended to Malawi’s presidential throne on April 5, 2012 after the incumbent president Bingu wa Mutharika succumbed to a cardiac arrest that she must ensure that she builds a good relationships at home and the neighbouring countries first before establishing herself in the Southern African region and then the entire African continent and the rest of the world.

“She will have some difficulties; there will be some male leaders that will not accept her fully but I think once she sets that example it will not be difficult for them to accept and to work with her,” the Liberian president – and Nobel Prize winner – told BBC Africa presenter Hassan Arouni.

Sirleaf believes President Banda must stamp her authority as a strong leader with a strong character and make everyone understand she is the head and in charge of the Malawian people.

The Liberian leader says she has known the Malawian leader as a woman made of hard stuff and strongly believes that she will make her country a better place in the world.

“I have known Honourable Banda as a woman of great substance and her strong leadership will change how people look at women in the world especially in Africa,” she said.

Former Malawian president Bakili Muluzi has said he strongly believes that the new president will solve the country’s political doldrums in two years.

Said Muluzi: “I strongly believe that president Banda is a very visionary leader and knows allthis and that’s why I believe she can bail out Malawi from the problems we arecurrently facing.”

Joyce Banda, who rose to prominence as a relentless women’s rights advocate, has become Malawi’s first female head ofstate.

President Banda, navigated through turbulent political waters as a vice president in recent years after she was vilified, humiliated and dishonoured by the ruling DDP and government.

The late president had tapped Banda as his deputy in the 2009 elections, but then ousted her from his party the following year accusing her of forming parallel structures alongside the newly appointed vice President Khumbo  Kachali.

Banda unfalteringly resisted Mutharika’s efforts to force her from office during a succession battle that flickered when the late president decided to groom his young brother, Arthur Peter Mutharika to become his successor in 2014 on his DPP ticket.

Unmoved by Mutharika’s threats Banda formed and became a leader for her own People’s Party, subsequently emerged as one ofMutharika’s fiercest critics, lambasting his management of an economy hobbled by fuel and forex shortages.

Fact file

President Joyce Banda was born on April 12, 1950,in Malawi’s colonial capital of Zomba to a stylish Police musician.

She began her career as a secretary and soon became a well-known public figure.

Banda started a women’s empowerment programme, travelling throughout the country to promote the National Business WomenAssociation, a campaign that made her one of Malawi’s most visible champions of gender equality.

She later established the Joyce Banda Foundation to advance education for girls.

President Banda after serving people at grassroots level entered politics in 1999, during Malawi’s second democratic elections and won a UDF parliamentary seat in her home area in Zomba.

When Mutharika split from Muluzi to form his own party, the DPP, Banda followed and became foreign minister in 2006.

During her time as Malawi’s top diplomat, the country severed its long ties with Taiwan and established relations with Beijing.

Banda argued the switch would bring economic benefits to Malawi. China has since built Malawi a new parliament in the capital Lilongwe, where Banda was sworn into office as president on April7.

She is married to retired Malawi’s Chief Justice Richard Banda who also served in Botswana as a legal expert after retiring.

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