Since his last appearance at the UN general Assembly on Sept. 25 where he delivered a speech at the summit, Malawian President Peter Mutharika has yet to return to his home country.
Rumours are swelling that Mutharika, believed to be 76, has stayed back in the United States because he’s gravely ill and seeking medical treatment.
On Monday, Minister of Information Malison Ndau wrote on the official Malawi government Facebook page that citizens should “IGNORE THE RUMORS; THE PRESIDENT IS FINE” and warned that under Malawi law it is illegal to spread falsehoods about the president’s health.
“Spreading false rumors about the health of the President is a criminal offense and unless this behavior stops forthwith, [the] government will not hesitate to bring to book those responsible for this irresponsible, malicious and damaging rumor-mongering which is clearly aimed at spreading fear and panic among law-abiding Malawians,” he wrote.
It is not abnormal for heads of state or other governmental leaders to extend their U.N. trips for other meetings in Washington that couldn’t be squeezed in during the busy week in New York. But it is also not entirely abnormal for them to seek medical treatment in the U.S. either. Now questions remain about why Mutharika has been gone for quite so long, and why the government has not published video or photo evidence of him in “very robust health,” as he is described in Monday’s statement.
On Monday, Malawians commented on Ndau’s Facebook post demanding answers. “When you are not informing people as to why the president is still not coming back far beyond the activity for which he travelled, you invite such speculations,” one user wrote.
“The million dollar questions haven’t been answered and that makes the whole statement useless,” added another. “The questions are, what is he doing in the US and when is he coming back? What official duties that cannot be mentioned?”
The Embassy of Malawi in Washington, D.C. did not immediately respond to FP’s request for comment.