Malawi army chief Odillo is Nyasa Times ‘Person of the Year’

Malawi’s leading online publication, Nyasa Times, has named Malawi Defence Force (MDF) Commander, General Henry Odillo, as its ‘Person of the Year’.

Nyasa Times introduced the Person of the Year accolade in 2010 and it was first given to the then Vice President Joyce Banda who defied the late President Bingu wa Mutharika plans to hand over power to his brother Peter Mutharika.

Banda is now the Head of State following the sudden death of Mutharika in April.

Nyasa Times then declared 2011 as the Year of the Protestor in recognition of those who took part in the July 20 and 21 demonstrations as well as those who fought for academic freedom.

The Nyasa TimesPerson of the Year is someone who, for betterinfluences the events of the year.

General Odillo: Nyasa Times Person of the year

The short list  for 2012 included President Mrs Joyce Banda who  has been spearheading  reforms since she took over power, consumer rights advocate John Kapito and Nation Publication Limited for its watchdog role with its newspaper titles – the daily Nation, Weekend Nation and Nation on Sunday.

Announcing the winner for 2012, the online publication editorial management said it has named Odillo for “leading the  Malawi army to defend the Constitution” after former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) orchestrated a failed “constitutional coup d’état” following the death of  Mutharika.

Cabinet ministers reportedly convened a meeting without the then Vice President Joyce Banda immediately after Mutharika’s death and plotted to prevent Mrs Banda, the vice-president, from taking over and to thrust the late president’s brother, Peter, into power in her stead.

Six ministers– Patricia Kaliati, Simon Vuwa Kaunda, Dr. Jean Kalilani, Henry Mussa, Nicholas Dausi and Kondwani Nakhumwa–dubbed ‘Midnight 6’,  held a news conference in the dead of the night on April 6 on state MBC television, telling the nation that the Vice President had no authority to act as president.

On 7 April, when Mutharika’s death could no longer be hidden, Malawi’s Cabinet sought a court order to block Joyce Banda from taking over as President.

But Malawi army chief backed the constitutional order and stationed troops around Banda’s  house  to allow her take over power.

The former ministers agreed to seek a court interpretation on the matter and asked the then Attorney General Maxon Mbendera to get a court order stopping any swearing-in of Banda.

Apparently, the swearing ceremony of Banda was cancelled by the Chief Justice Lovemore  Munlo, saying  he had forgotten his ceremonial robes and wig in Blantyre, 360 kilometres away from Lilongwe.

Nyasa Times learnt, at that time there were still some behind-the scene maneavring to side-step constitutional order.

But after a two-hour delay, Mrs Banda was at last sworn in.

Some Malawians expressed concern that the ‘mid night 6’ action undermined the constitution, which they said, could have led to violence and chaos.

President Banda herself is on record saying the Chief Justice was involved in the ‘Good Friday Gang’.  But Munlo dimissed the accusations.

Nyasa Times management team felt the role of Army chief was “pivotal” hence naming Odillo Person of the Year.

Guarantees Malawians security

Meanwhile, Odillo has pledged to safeguard the territorial integrity of the Republic of Malawi and support its civilian rule.

He told journalists at Kamuzu Barracks in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe where he observed that the army demonstrated a deep understanding of its role in a democracy and continued to support civilian rule as per dictates of this country’s constitution.

The military chief also commented on  the on-going discussions between Malawi and Tanzania on the Lake Malawi border dispute, by assuring all Malawians that he was aware of what was going on.

Odilli assured Malawians “not to live in fear in their own house” as this is their country where military would always protect them.

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