UNITED States (U.S) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a lightning visit to Malawi yesterday to congratulate its new president, one of only two female heads of state in Africa, for pulling her impoverished country back from the economic brink after a political crisis.
Clinton, who is on an African tour, landed in Malawi's capital Lilongwe and headed directly to a meeting with President Joyce Banda, a veteran women's rights campaigner who had been the country's vice president and moved into the top job in April after the death of her erratic predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika.
U.S. officials said Clinton's five hour visit -- the first ever by a U.S. Secretary of State to the southern African country -- was a vote of confidence in Banda, who has moved swiftly to woo back international donors after years of damaging mismanagement under Mutharika.
"President Banda had made critical reforms that are already improving lives and spurring economic recovery," Clinton said in prepared remarks after meeting the 62-year-old leader, who is now Africa's second female head of state following Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The two leaders traded compliments at Malawi's State House and then moved behind closed doors for talks that were an opportunity for two canny political operators to trade notes.
"For a long time we have been women and children's activists and I have been waiting for the day when we will meet," Banda said.