Written by RAPHAEL TENTHANI
I doubt if Bingu wa Mutharika had any foreign policy at all. I guess the late president just chose and picked whatever appealed to him that particular day based on which corner of the bed he woke from.
If you don’t believe me look at how he settled for Mainland China at the expense of Taiwan. The Taiwanese had just given us a fleet of sleek Mercedes Benz saloons only weeks before he ditched them for Red China. If Bingu had time to think through the Beijing bait surely he couldn’t have accepted the Taipei largesse.
Also look at how shabbily he handled Great Britain. Her Majesty's top envoy pricked the old man's ego but surely Bingu should’ve put Malawi's interests above his personal pride. Everyone but Bingu knew that chasing Fergus Cochraine-Dyet was suicidal. We knew the consequences of course but in case we didn’t know William Hague, the chief British diplomat, spelt them to us. But, no, Bingu still expelled Cochraine-Dyet and we all know the domino effect this crazy act of power intoxication visited on us.
We also had needless issues with neighbours. Bingu wanted an inland port 'yesterday' and by-passed the strategic partner in his 'techno-colour dream' to disastrous effect. We also picked an avoidable quarrel with Zambia by doing what we did to the British guy to the fella who would be president.
Maybe the only neighbour we had no issues with was Tanzania. But the oil exploration deal Bingu signed is out to haunt us while the architect is resting peacefully in his custom-made mausoleum. Now Joyce Banda has to pacify a slighted neighbour.
I spoke to Cassim Chilumpha, the minister responsible for these oily stuff, this week. He told me he wasn’t ordering "nobody off the exploration" because "we have violated no international law". Kaka is right: the 1890 Anglo-German Treaty mapped the lake and the boundary was confirmed by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) - the precursor of the African Union - in the '60s, a status thus recognised by the United Nations.
Dr. Chilumpha is right when he told me Malawi has not violated no territorial borders with Tanzania. But we have to appreciate this diplomatic spat with sober minds. We need to study the Tanzanians' concerns and weigh them against the gains we hope to derive from this oil - is someone saying 'oily'? - deal. After all it is not like we have already discovered the elusive liquid gold.
Kaka told me there will be a meeting between the two countries in Mzuzu on August 20. Let us be firm - but without Bingu's arrogance - when making our case to our Taifa brothers and sisters. Let us listen to their case and make rational decisions. We can’t afford to go to war over the oil whose presence we are yet to confirm, let alone its volumes. Let us not forget we are just on the exploration stage and unlike Ghana, which just found oil, we haven't found anything yet.