* To challenge H. Kamuzu Banda, Malawi's new president Bakili Muluzi had to be a survivor. A former Cabinet minister in Dr. Banda's government and head of the ruling party, Mr. Muluzi was chief of a super-secret underground democracy network in Malawi. He is one of the few ministers to leave Banda's ruling party alive.

In a victory day interview, the southern Muslim promised change. ``Just go to my village. There is no clinic, no school, bad roads. These are things we need to address in Malawi,'' he says. ``They walk without shoes; they have no soap.''

Such talk is easy with victory at hand. But Banda's Malawi Congress Party and rival opposition groups describe Muluzi as an opportunist with a questionable past. Banda's campaign police allegedly found records of thefts performed by Muluzi in 1967. More recently, he has been cleared of MCP allegations that he falsified MCP accounts when he was head of the party.

In 1982, depending on the source, he left the MCP to make more money or was pushed out by party leaders. Unlike most MCP leaders, however, he is untainted by the killings in 1983 of three ministers and a parliamentarian in a ``car accident'' believed to be the work of security agents.

Muluzi denies any criminal activity, saying that no Malawian can ``point a finger: Even if it had happened, why raise this question now? It's nothing but propaganda.''

Though most opposition leaders fought Banda from the relative safety of Zambia, Muluzi risked his life organizing opposition within Malawi.

Muluzi's group began a campaign to criticize the government to influential officials. Banda's regime hunted the culprits to no avail. ``I'm surprised we survived,'' Muluzi says. ``All the calls and faxes we sent ... and they never knew.''

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