FOOD AID TO BE PROTECTED IN MALAWI
Malawi army to protect food aid.
Mr Mutharika says his enemies are trying to discredit him. Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika has warned anyone planning to loot food aid that convoys are being protected by soldiers with orders to shoot. He said he knew of aid convoys which had been ambushed. "These soldiers may shoot you... so don't accuse my government of abusing human rights if they shoot you," he told a rally.
Malawi is the worst hit of six countries in southern Africa facing serious food shortages. Mr Mutharika said his government had uncovered a plot by his detractors to ambush trucks ferrying maize so that they could accuse him of failing to contain the food crisis. Government and aid agencies say up to 5 million Malawians - nearly half the population - will need urgent food aid until the next harvest in April next year. The government set aside 5 billion kwacha (about $50m) in the 2005/06 national budget to buy 300,000 metric tons of maize from South Africa.
Tired and hungry Malawians often have to queue for days to get food An additional 144,000 metric tons of maize is still needed.Long dry spells at the height of the rainy season, which cut Malawi's production of its staple food maize by 24%, are blamed for the food crisis. Malawi requires 2.1 million metric tons of maize to feed the population of 12 million people. The United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) recently launched an $88m appeal for Malawi but only $28m has been received so far.
Mr Mutharika said the imported maize has started arriving but "some rich thieves" are stealing it. He gave an example of a truck that left the capital, Lilongwe, with 35 metric tons of maize heading for the central district of Dedza some 80 kilometres away. It was ambushed and all the maize was looted. "I have names of such rich thieves but I will not name them," he said. Mutharika is facing a political crisis where a united front of opposition parties have ganged up to impeach him for alleged corruption and committing high constitutional crimes.
BBC NEWS REPORT.