Joyce Banda, Malawi’s vice president, has been sworn in as president of her country hours after officials confirmed the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika, according to The Associated Press.
The government in Lilongwe had confirmed the death of Mutharika only today, two days after he had in fact died of an apparent stroke and a day after this was announced by doctors.
Banda becomes southern Africa’s first female head of state.
More from GlobalPost: Malawi confirms death of President Bingu wa Mutharika
According to the AP, Banda had fallen out with Mutharika but held onto her post as vice president. Before being sworn in, she had held a news conference with the heads of the army and police to announce a period of national mourning.
The news agency said the delay in announcing Mutharika’s death and in swearing in a replacement had caused speculation that a crisis of succession had arisen among the country’s remaining power brokers. Banda will have to address an economic crisis and repair relations with international donors, according to the AP.
Reuters reports that Banda is known as a champion of women’s rights.
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In an October interview with GlobalPost Banda explained that she had first become concerned with women’s status in Malawian society when a close friend was too poor continue her education.
“She was brighter than me in school. At the end of primary school, I went to secondary school. I paid $12 a term to go to school. She went one term and couldn’t go again,” Banda said.
“Her family couldn’t afford it. I went on to go to college and I became the vice president of Malawi. She is still where she was 30 years ago. She has had many children. The vicious cycle of poverty kept her there and took away her options.”