Malawi's Vice President Joyce Banda, a women rights advocate, rose to the country's presidency on April 7 after she was sworn in following the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika due to a cardiac arrest.
Joyce Banda rises to Malawi's presidency on April 7, becoming the country's first female leader. [Agencies]
Banda, born in 1950, took the presidential oath in the New Parliament Building's chamber at a ceremony presided over by the country's Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo. In her acceptance speech, the new Malawi President called for unity and forgiveness saying it was time to move forward as a nation that fears God and that she hoped that there would be no room for revenge.
The President said she had had a meeting with cabinet ministers earlier in the day and she said it was a very successful and that it promised a good beginning.
"I had a cabinet meeting with honorable ministers this afternoon and I want to let you all know here that the Holy Spirit descended upon us," said Banda, adding "To me this was very significant because that's where we should begin from."
According to the cabinet meeting this morning, Banda has not been appointed acting President but was given power to in charge of all affairs after the death of Mutharika, which was confirmed Saturday by Malawi's government.
Malawi constitution stipulates that in the event that the sitting president becomes incapacitated or deceased the Vice President should take over the role of presidency for the remaining period of a term until elections are held.
But Banda's succession was met with challenges as some ministers claimed on Friday night that forming her own party should disqualify her from succeeding Mutharika.
Earlier in the day, Members of Parliament for late President Mutharika's ruling party, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), told the media that they would work and support President Banda.
Banda called on the nation to mourn Mutharika with dignity and she thanked Malawians for staying calm during the power transition period. She said she was accepting the presidency with total humility and that she would strive to serve the nation earnestly.
After official announcement of Mutharika's death, Banda held a press conference at her residence in the capital where she declared a ten-day mourning period for President Mutharika. Meanwhile, President Banda said funeral arrangements for the falling Malawi leader would be announced later.
Her accession to the presidency makes her the first female president in Malawi and in the southern Africa and the second in modern Africa after Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia.
Before becoming actively involved in politics, Banda founded and ran various projects, including the Joyce Banda Foundation for better education for children, National Association of Business Women (NABW) for economic improvement for women, Young Women Leaders Network, and the Hunger Project.
In 2011 Forbes Magazine listed Joyce Banda as the third most powerful woman in Africa.
Banda has been highly involved in Malawi politics since the inception of multiparty in early 1990s and as a parliamentarian later she served in various positions in both president Muluzi's and Mutharika's governments.
Some of her positions include Minister of Gender, Child Welfare and Community Services where she fought to enact the Domestic Violence Bill which had failed for seven years previously, and Minister of foreign Affairs.
She also designed the National Platform for Action on Orphans and Vulnerable Children and the Zero Tolerance Campaign Against Child Abuse.
Her most notable breakthrough in politics came in 2009 when President Mutharika nominated her as Vice President, the position she served from May 29, 2009 to April 2012 before being declared President.
However, while still serving as the country's vice president, Banda founded her own party, the People's Party (PP), in December 2011 following a fallout with Mutharika due to her resistance in accepting Mutharika's brother Peter Mutharika to take DPP to polls in 2014.
Banda comes from Zomba in the south and she is married to Retired Chief Justice Richard Banda.
Xinhua contributed to the story.