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Malawi's President Mutharika Rejects Call to Step Down

March 22 (Bloomberg) -- Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika rejected a call from civil-society groups for him to resign or call a referendum to gauge his popularity.

“I will continue to run this country until 2014,” Mutharika said in a speech in Mangochi, about 220 kilometers (137 miles) south of the commercial capital, Blantyre, broadcast on national television today. “I will not step down because the constitution of this country mandates me to run for a full five-year term.”

The 78-year-old leader, whose second term ends in 2014, said he remains popular.

The groups, including the Human Rights Consultative Committee, want Mutharika to step down as the southern African nation faces a political and economic crisis after some donors withheld aid last year over a crackdown by the government against protesters. Demonstrators demanded changes to economic policy to end fuel and foreign-currency shortages. The groups made the call after a two-day conference last week.

They also called on the government to weaken the kwacha. Malawi, Africa’s second-biggest tea producer, devalued the currency by 10 percent on Aug. 8. It strengthened 0.1 percent to 166.80 against the dollar at 1:45 p.m. in Lusaka.

To contact the reporter on this story: Frank Jomo in Blantyre at fjomo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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