Transition in Malawi: What are the implications for those who wish Africa well?

By | April 7, 2012 at 1:21 pm | No comments | Africa, International Solidarity, Malawi, News, Self-Mobilisation, Situational Awareness, The Pan-Africanist Imperatives

The government of Malawi has confirmed that President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi has died.

BBC reports that “Mr Mutharika, 78, suffered a cardiac arrest on Thursday and state media said he was being treated in South Africa. Medical and government officials said on Friday that he was dead but there was no formal announcement, leading to fears of a power-struggle.” It is perhaps no exaggeration that a power struggle took place owing to the very special circumstances under which this drama is taking place. Xinhua reports on April 6  that:

“The Malawi government on Friday night declared that Vice President Joyce Banda illegible to take over the reigns of leadership in any event that President Mutharika is incapacitated or deceased as per the constitutional requirement citing the fact that she formed her own party as the reason.”

On the same day, the Malawi Chief Justice Lovemeore Munlo told senior government officials that they would have to transfer power to Vice President Joyce Banda as per constitutional requirement following the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika.

We are posting this to elicit views and possible solutions to the perceived problem. For those interested in the maintenance of the status quo, anything that can prolong the interim status of Jean Ping’s African Union Commission should be a welcoming news. But for those of us looking for a positive change in the way the African Union is run, this is a major set-back. How are we to ensure the exit of the French puppet, Monsieur Jean Ping? They have already questioned Malawi’s preparedness to host the AU Summit, scheduled for the June 23-30, 2012 in Lilongwe, Malawi. The first person to kick against it was Malawi’s Vice-President and bizarre “opposition leader”, Joyce Hilda Banda! Does this mean the fate of the forth-coming AU Summit is now in the balance? In whose interest is that going to serve? Is the Jean Ping controlled AUC making any alternative arrangements to ensure a successful summit come June 23rd?

What would hosting an AU Summit without Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir mean to the resolve of the African Union to ignore the arrest warrant by the ICC?
President Bingu wa Mutharika. was prepared to respect the wishes of the AU rather than those of the imperialists. Under intense diplomatic and economic pressure by the US not to host President Omar Al-Bashir, the Malawi Presidential spokesperson Dr. Hetherwick Ntaba told zodiak online that “Malawi can not speculate if it will stop the Sudanese President from visiting Malawi or not.” Asked why Malawi allowed Mr. Al-Bashir during the COMESA summit in 2011 when other African countries refuse to host the indicted president, Dr. Ntaba said Malawi makes her own decisions. “Such countries are free do that but Malawi hosted him during the COMESA because the African Union recognizes him. The AU agreed to continue inviting Mr. Al-Bashir so he is welcomed by the entire continent”.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued two arrest warrants against President Omar Al-Bashir to answer about 10 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur, but Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Professor Peter Mutharika said the whole government machinery needs to sit down to decide whether to allow, deny entry or arrest al-Bashir if he comes again.

“I am just a Foreign Minister. I am too small for this. This is a big decision. The entire government has to meet to decide. Let’s wait and see what happens,” said Mutharika when asked whether government will take another risk to upset donors by allowing al-Bashir into the country in July.

As a signatory to the ICC’s statute, Malawi is obligated to execute the world court’s warrant and arrest the Sudanese leader on its soil, but the country failed to do so when al-Bashir came for the Comesa summit in October last year. Currently, Malawi is facing a case with ICC which in December reported the country to UN Security Council because it failed to cooperate with the court. The decision by Malawi to invite al-Bashir to a trade summit last October was also part of the concerns that led to the suspension of K58.5 billion (about $350 million) Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) energy grant last week.

Is the Joyce Banda Administration ready and willing to host the summit? Is she ready to accept all accredited AU delegations to Malawi, including Sudan’s president? Is the independence of the African Union at stake? President Bingu wa Mutharika was strongly opposed by the imperialists, Joyce Banda is apparently a darling. The United States declared recently that “Malawi government will affect its chances to get back to the  US$ 350.7 million worth of assistance  meant to revitalise the country’s faltering energy sector if it will hosts fugitive Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir at the June’s Africa Union summit.”

Conflict of interest and a successful AU Summit?

It is not clear why the 18th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa chose to disregard clear provisions in its own Constitutive Act which asks for the replacement of the failed candidate, Jean Ping, by African Union’s Deputy Commissioner, Erastus Mwencha. The story was that this was a compromise, under the condition that Jean Ping was not going to contest the post afterwards. Strangely after the decision, the first thing we heard was that Jean Ping was rather going to contest, whilst South Africa’s Home Minister, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma was not. Of course, coming from the Voice of America, we took this with a pinch of salt and were subsequently vindicated. The problem that arises with Jean Ping in the seat as acting Chairperson of the AU and an interested party in the forth-coming contest, produces serious conflict of interest. The summit can be organized without any hitches, if Jean Ping is assured of winning. and it is vulnerable to sabotage if Jean Ping is not sure of victory.

What might seem to matter to the Jean Ping camp is how to stay in office beyond the June summit. No summit means continuity, so that would be a logical option for a failed candidate who is not sure of his future in a successful summit.  Is it not about time that another venue is scheduled for the Summit? Do we trust the AUC to do the right thing?

Bingu wanted to host the AU summit, Joyce Banda did not
!

Malawi Vice President Joyce Banda is on record to have asked Pressident Bingu wa Mutharika “to eat a humble pie and inform the African Union that the country which is facing economic challenges cannot afford to host the summit of Heads of State and Government scheduled in June.” Banda said the resources which would be used for the summit can be channelled to other pressing issues affecting the country such as buying medical drugs and paying civil servants. www.nyasatimes.com reported that “Speaking at Kasiya in Lilongwe, Banda said government cannot afford to host 54 African countries when people in the country are facing a lot of problems including a looming hunger and that people in Lower Shire need relief following flooding.” The Vice President was quoted as saying, “I humbly appeal to government not to host the coming African Union summit but rather use the money to supply drugs in hospitals, buy ambulances and improve our economy,”

“There is no money to waste, there is still six months to go they can find another venue in the continent,” she added as the crowds cheered.

On 16 February 2012 we posted the following comment on: Examining Malawi’s offer to host African Union summit | Malawi news, Malawi

We do know, and expect to see several attempts to scupper the next AU Summit at Malawi. We also know that principled African governments seen to be favourably disposed towards the campaign for an independent and authentic African voice other than the ventriloquy from London, Paris and Washington we have been seeing at the AU, spear-headed by candidacy of Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, shall come increasingly under fire.

There is no doubt that Malawi’s economy is faring as poorly as the US economy, but it is still far better than that of Greece! Africans who are waiting for the current global economic crisis to pass before hosting AU Summits fail to see the urgency and priority of a functioning AU in addressing these very economic problems that urgently require attention. As Pan-Africanists, we recognize the prerogative of the civil society of Malawi in dealing with the alleged human rights abuses by the Bingu wa Mutharika administration, do stand in solidarity with all the victims, but that, in itself, should not be a valid reason for the hosting of an AU Summit.

The last AU Summit was held in Ethiopia. The human rights records of the Meles Zenawe administration is one of the worst on the continent. We would eagerly concede to support the suggestion that only African countries with clean human rights records should be allowed to host an AU Summit, just as there was a cultural, political and diplomatic boycott of Apartheid South Africa, but that will surely cripple the AU immediately! There are a bunch of dictators out there, and perhaps, we must first drive away the goat from the barn, before we lock it up.

We are becoming increasingly sensitive at the subtle promotion of known dictators, and the selective attacks on those seen as supporting Dr. Dlamini-Zuma. A few days ago, the Forbes magazine published a list of “5 Worst African Dictators”. The criteria was not clear. Those who have come to power in bloody coups and wars, control entire economies within their cliques, who are nothing but puppets of imperialism shall never come under attack in so far as they continue to support the protégé of the Élysée, and rejected by the AU, Jean Ping!

We are asking our readers to open their eyes and read between the lines! What is the point in hosting a Summit only in “human rights-free” locations when all the human rights abusers who may not host these summits would be in attendance, anyway? There are two types of human rights abusers in Africa, and we are opposed to both camps, the pro-imperialist human rights abusers, and the anti-imperialist human rights abusers. Whilst we condemn both sides, we are becoming increasingly resentful of the selective attacks being waged by the pro-imperialist propaganda in Africa.

Our comment on the criteria for selecting the 5 worst African leaders remain relevant here: “Pan-Africanist International: I think the principal criterion was in their attitudes towards US policy in Africa. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) supposedly remarked in 1939 that “Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.” This is exactly what is going on here. They have refused categorically to include their own sons and daughters of bitches!

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