Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza have spoken out about their ordeal, describing it as “the most stressful period in our lives” and praising Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika for pardoning them.

The couple appeared in public for the first time since their release at a brief press conference in Lilongwe yesterday.

“The president has demonstrated that he is a caring father, a considerate and tolerant president. We wish him good health in his everyday endeavours as he continues leading the country to respecting human rights and to economic prosperity,” the men said in a statement.

They also asked that they be given some privacy: “So much has been said and written about us, both positive and negative. We think this is the time for us to be given an opportunity to enjoy our freedom.”

President Mutharika, who described the couple’s engagement ceremony as “satanic”, said that he only pardoned the men because of threats by international donors to stop aid to the country.

“Is it possible to stop aid to Malawi because of two people who are insane?” he asked reporters while attending a summit in France on Wednesday.

“The story ends there…I don’t want to hear anyone commenting on them. Nobody is authorised to comment on the gays. You will spoil things,” he added.

It is believed that around 40 percent of the Malawian government’s budget comes from international donors.

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