Malawi MPs vote to fly old rising sun flag

image captionThe old flag of a red rising sun was first flown at independence in 1964

Malawian MPs have voted to restore the national flag of a rising sun scrapped two years ago by the government of the late President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Mr Mutharika, who died in April, changed it to a full sun to reflect what he said was Malawi's move from a developing to a developed nation.

A BBC reporter says the move was deeply unpopular with the people of Malawi.

"You cannot rewrite history midway for no apparent reason," the justice minister told the BBC after the vote.

A former economist, Mr Mutharika governed Malawi for eight years, but had latterly been accused of mismanaging the economy and becoming autocratic.

Following his death, his vice-president, Joyce Banda, took power and has reversed many of his policies.

She had fallen out with Mr Mutharika over his succession plans and left his Democratic People's Party (DPP).

'Independence struggle'

The government bill to revert to the flag first hoisted at independence in 1964 was supported by all opposition parties - except the former ruling DPP.

image captionBingu wa Mutharika said the white sun flag reflected Malawi's development since independence

"A flag has got a very fundamental significance," Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"The flag is part of our association with the independence struggle, the history of the country," he said.

He condemned Mr Mutharika's justification for changing the flag, adding that it was "absurd" to say Malawi was a prosperous country.

The BBC's Joel Nkoma in Lilongwe says the President Banda has scored several political points with the move as most people he spoke to on the streets of the capital have welcomed the return of the old flag.

The DPP says spending money on changing the flag again should not be a priority at a time the country is facing economic hardships.

But our reporter says the DPP no longer has any political clout, having lost its parliamentary majority since President Banda took over after Mr Mutharika's sudden death from a cardiac arrest.

At least half of its members have left to become independents - or crossed the floor to join President Banda's party, our correspondent says.

President Banda needs to sign the bill before it becomes law.

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an estimated 75% of the population living on less than $1 (60p) a day.

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