BLANTYRE–Malawi and its former colonial power Britain on Wednesday formally re-established full diplomatic relations after a new top diplomat Michael Nevin presented letters of accreditation to Pres Joyce Banda, a year after a diplomatic spat that saw London cutting vital aid to the impoverished southern African nation.
Malawi had declared Britain's top diplomat Fergus Cochrane-Dyet persona non grata after his criticism of the late president Bingu wa Mutharika was leaked to the press.
The row had revolved around a leaked cable in which Cochrane-Dyet said Mutharika, who died in April after a heart attack, was becoming "ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism" and that the governance situation continued to deteriorate in terms of media freedom, freedom of speech and minority rights.
London retaliated by expelling Malawi’s high commissioner Flossie Gomile.
Nevin told reporters his presence “symbolized a new era and signified the re-establishment of the full bilateral relationship between the two countries.”
“My visit symbolizes Britain’s return and the strong people to people links that binds us together,” he added.
Nevin, who has previously worked in the country as a senior diplomat, said he had brought a “new working system” that would “spend less time with politicians and concentrate on building the economy of the country.
“It is important for Britain to stop concentrating on politics but rather look for only important areas that would help in bringing Malawi’s economy back on track.”
He said the two countries have a “deep and broad relationship and a central element is our shared objective to see Malawi lift itself out of poverty, to grow and develop.”
Malawi gained its independence from Britain in 1964 and London remains the biggest bilateral donor to the nation, where half the 14 million citizens live below the poverty line and on less than a dollar a day.
Britain last year slashed aid by £3 million (3.4 million euros, $4.9 million) to the country African after expressing concern at the government's purchase of a $13.26 million presidential jet.
Malawi depends on donor support for up to 40 percent of its development budget and salaries for 169,000 civil servants.
©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction without acknowledgment prohibited.