In Part 1, Karvei and The Wise One explored Kamuzu Banda's acrimonious relation with OAU which is at loggerheads with current Malawian President Joyce Banda over Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who is wanted on war crimes by the International Criminal Court. In Part two, the duo look at efforts by Kamuzu's successor, Bakili Muluzi, and Muluzi's successor, Bingu wa Mutharika, to end Malawi's isolation in Africa
MALAWI’s evolution from one party politics to plural politics which marked the end of Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s grip on Malawi heralded a massive paradigm shift in Malawi’s foreign policy.
What followed, in terms of foreign policy, were frantic efforts to catch up on time lost during Malawi’s splendid isolation.
“As I address the Assembly today, 30 years after the only time my predecessor did so, I bring with me a message of renewed hope and friendship from the people of a newly democratic Republic of Malawi to all the peoples of all the States represented here this morning.
Freed from fears of itself, Malawi courageously embraces the rest of the family of nations; freed from self-imposed isolation, Malawi stands ready to engage actively in efforts to find international solutions to the problems of our times.” - Bakili Muluzi, addressing the United Nations General Assembly
on 5th October 1994.
This “freedom from self-imposed isolation” marked the official departure from Dr. Banda’s consistency on being selective on whom to consort with and whom to shun.Building bridges: Muluzi’s efforts
Bakili Muluzi’s government went literally all over the place, re-building bridges. Delegations were despatched to among other countries Zimbabwe and Mozambique to apologise for past hurts.
To cap Muluzi’s efforts as an international statesman, Malawi put in a bid and succeeded to become chair of COMESA
from 1994 to 1997.
- With this, Malawi’s participation in bodies like the African Union (AU), Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) adopted unprecedented political significance.
Again, under the presidency of Muluzi, Malawi veered into the hands and schemes of the late Brother Leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi
. Building bridges: Mutharika’s efforts
His successor, President Bingu wa Mutharika - picking the baton from where Muluzi had dropped it - aimed a little higher. He gunned for and secured the chairmanship of the African Union (AU).
With a solid backing for the role by southern and eastern African countries (primed by Muluzi) he foiled Muammar Gaddafi’s attempt to hold on a little longer. He was duly elected in January 2010 at the expense of the sulking Colonel Muammar Gaddafi
Although the AU could have benefitted more from a country chair with strong financial muscle (like Libya), it needed to be seen to be respecting its own rules and processes which required that the chairmanship should rotate regionally. This militated against Gaddafi’s intentions, any played out in Malawi’s favour.
After conceding the presidency, Gaddafi said he would continue to promote his vision of a "United States of Africa", adding that he did not need to keep the title of AU head.
"My brother president of the Republic of Malawi will replace me and take over. There is no need for any title; I'll remain in the front struggling
(for a United States of Africa)."
The cost/benefit of consorting with Brother Leader:
Both the COMESA and AU chairmanship came with a cost to Malawi. Malawi, with a budget that is 30 to 40 per cent donor-funded, relies on aid for its foreign reserves. As such, a huge chunk of Malawi’s foreign currency reserves come from aid.
Now, playing international diplomacy at regional or continental level implies incurring expenses at these fora. To finance this under Muluzi’s tenure, several nontraditional donors were courted.
One of these was late Muammar Gaddafi who is alleged to have been a major financier of Muluzi’s failed third term agenda.
Hence, just as South Africa had had a vested interest in Kamuzu Banda’s continued control over Malawi, Gaddafi became a debenture holder on Muluzi’s continued rule.
At the invitation of His Excellency the President Dr. Bakili Muluzi of the Republic of Malawi, Brother Leader of the Great Al-Fatah Revolution in the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,
Around the time of the onset of Muluzi’s positioning for a third term, Gaddafi paid a state visit to Malawi. He was in Malawi from Tuesday 16th July to Friday 19th July, 2002.
Ironically, Gaddafi had only been stopped from waging war on Malawi by a well-timed Idi Amin warning during the Kamuzu Banda days. And this is a story for another day.
Nevertheless, during the visit Gaddafi promised to:
- construct a hospital and houses in urban centres;
- donate 15 tractors to develop the country's agriculture and
- offered 4000 metric tons of maize to ease the then food crisis.
Construction of the hospital, which had begun at Kameza in Blantyre, came to a standstill after President Bingu wa Mutharika took over power from Muluzi.
In addition to these donations, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Kathryn Sturman - South African Institute for International Affairs, commenting on Gaddafi's death said,
"It's the end of an era for the AU. Libya was one of the big five [along with South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and Algeria] financial contributors of the organisation. It paid 15% of its [AU] budget, and also the membership fees of countries in arrears, like Malawi."
Some of Muammar Gaddafi’s funds are also alleged to have ended up in Muluzi’s personal account
– a case that is still outstanding on the list of the Anti-Corruption Bureau’s cases to be completed.
Treading where angels feared to tread:
Using the Chairmanship of the African Union as a pedestal, Mutharika launched the contrarian policies that were to characterise his second term.
Addressing the United Nations 65th Session on 23rd September 2010, he launched the first salvo on the International Criminal Court
The long and short of his case was that the general consensus in Africa was that the International Criminal Court’s push for the arrest of Sudanese President Omer Hassan al-Bashir was hampering efforts at lasting peace in Sudan.
He, therefore, appealed to the General Assembly to amend article 16 of the Rome Statute to enable it to assure the powers of the Security Council to defer the Bashir case for one year to allow on-going negotiation to succeed.
As if to drive the point home, barely a month later, Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir was allowed to visit Malawi for a regional trade summit, in defiance of the international war crimes warrant against him.
“Bashir and his 26-member delegation were welcomed with traditional dances and an honour guard of Malawi soldiers, even though the southern African nation has a treaty obligation to arrest him over war crimes committed in Sudan's troubled Darfur region,” according to News24.com
Again in the same UN address, he called for immediate lifting of sanctions against the pariah states of Zimbabwe and Cuba, blaming the sanctions for causing great hardship and questioning their relevance.
On the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, Mutharika said the African Union supported the position taken by the Non-Aligned Movement, which called for justice and equal treatment for all concerned nations – a stance that had in all probability been influenced by AU’s newfound friend, Iran’s Ahmadinejad.
To put things in their context, in transit to the UN General Assembly, Mutharika had detoured to Iran to launch an Iranian-African summit which discussed how Tehran could assist with development of the continent.
"This is a very interesting and important trip. For the past three years, Iran has been inviting Africa to see what Iran can do for the continent," Mutharika, as chair of the African Union.
He further announced that after attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York, would on return visit Cuba "to strengthen unity between us
”. Even Muluzi in his most adventurous mood had never thought of a sojourn to Cuba
To conclude this part, with the end of splendid isolation, Malawi constructed bridges to Libya, Sudan, Tehran, and strengthened the wavering one with Zimbabwe.
All this should have bided well for Malawi, but as will be seen in Part 3 of these series – all that was glittering wasn’t necessarily gold. Malawi’s consorting with the East, as we will see, came with a very high cost.
For Part I click here
----©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment.