* Britain, United States have restored funds, more on way
* IMF “letter of comfort” reassures donors, lenders
By Pascal Fletcher
ADDIS ABABA, July 16 (Reuters) - Aid from major donors is flowing back to Malawi after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) backed the southern African country’s economic policies and efforts to seek financing, Malawian ministers said on Monday.
The IMF issued a so-called “letter of comfort” for the impoverished nation last month, giving a thumbs-up to its efforts to seek financial aid and loans.
“Based on this, a lot of donors are releasing aid,” Foreign Minister Mganda Chiume told reporters on the sidelines of an African Union (AU) summit in the Ethiopian capital.
Major donors such as Britain and the United States have announced a restoration of aid programmes in recent weeks following the death of then President Bingu wa Mutharika from a heart attack in April.
Under Mutharika’s rule, assistance dried up over concerns about his human rights record and handling of the economy.
Since April, new President Joyce Banda has moved swiftly to woo donors whose aid generally accounts for 40 percent of Malawi’s budget. The budget was unveiled on June 8 and forecasts growth of 4.3 percent this year and 5.7 percent in 2013.
Information Minister Moses Kunkuyu said Britain would be providing an additional 25 million pounds ($39 million) of aid following an earlier 33 million pound package announced after London resumed aid to Malawi.
“The 33 million is already in the kitty, the 25 million is on its way,” Kunkuyu told reporters in Addis Ababa.
Last month, the United States restored a $350 million programme to overhaul Malawi’s decrepit electricity grid in recognition of the “sound economic policy” introduced since the death of Mutharika.
Malawi, one of Africa’s poorest states, had been scheduled to host the AU summit this month but the venue was switched to Addis Ababa after Banda asked the AU to prevent Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir from taking part, saying his visit to Malawi could damage the economy..
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on genocide charges and, as an ICC member state, Malawi is supposed to arrest him if he enters its territory.
Chiume said Malawi believed it was in its “best interests” not to receive Bashir.
“We never said that Sudan should not be represented, neither did we say he should be arrested,” he said, adding that Malawi had given priority to its relationship with the IMF and donors.
A Bashir visit to Malawi last year when Mutharika was in power sparked international criticism.
The Sudanese leader has been indicted by the ICC over allegations he is responsible for the deaths of up to 300,000 people in the region of Darfur since 2003. He has denied the charges.