Mutharika’s AU chairmanship divides Malawi

2010-02-04 14:38

The election of the Malawi leader, Bingu wa Mutharika, as Africa

Union (AU) chairman has been received with mixed reactions with local economists

bashing it while political analysts have welcomed it.


Economic analysts are pointing out that there is nothing that

Malawi will gain from Mutharika’s AU chairmanship as the country will lose out

financially in sponsoring the union’s activities.


Economics Association of Malawi vice chairperson Paul Kwengere told

a local daily that the position would also distract Mutharika from concentrating

on domestic issues.


“The downside to this is that President Mutharika will be so much

involved in African issues that sometimes people may feel he is foregoing

certain domestic issues,” he told The Daily Times.


The economists’ concern that Malawi will cough funds to finance

some African Union activities hold water because just on Tuesday this week,

Parliament endorsed a six-month budget of R24?million for Mutharika AU

engagements.


“A further K500 million (R24?million) has been earmarked to support

the activities of His Excellency the State

President in position as current

chairman of African Union,” Finance Minister Ken Kandodo told Parliament when he

was seeking approval of the new extra allocation in Malawi budget.


He also announced that government will spend another R20?million on

an AU Finance Ministers meeting to be held in Malawi.


The opposition parties are also irked with the development and have

asked for transparency and accountability on how those funds will be used.


While economists and the opposition have some reservations as they

are looking at the financial and economic implications of Mutharika’s

chairmanship, political analysts have a totally different view.


University of Malawi political analyst Blessings Chinsinga said the

move was a welcome development.


“One of the advantages of his election as chairman is that he will

be able to contribute to the development activities happening continent-wide,”

said Chinsinga.


He pointed out that on a continent where conflict is the order of

the day, outstanding leaders like Mutharika ought to play a role in bringing

peace and sanity to such nations.


“Mutharika is, for instance, close to Zimbabwean leader Robert

Mugabe, so it is easy for him to intervene in the crisis in that country and

once the crisis in Zimbabwe is over we will benefit a lot economically as we

used to trade a lot with Harare in the past,” said Chinsinga.


Interestingly, the media has also thrown its support behind

Mutharika’s AU chairmanship with a commentary in the Daily Times reading in

part: “There is no doubt that Mutharika’s leadership of the continental body

will also put Malawi in the limelight….However, with Bingu as chairman of AU,

Malawi’s popularity will definitely soar and make the country a bigger

investment destination.”


According to the paper, the challenge is for Malawi to market its

products to the international community as the country will be a hub for many

international meetings, courtesy of Mutharika’s new position.


Besides conflict in some troubled countries, Mutharika has observed

that poverty and hunger are other enemies that should be dealt with.


He says any meaningful development starts with food security and

hoped that Africa will achieve that within the coming five years.


“I am optimistic that in five years time no child will die of

hunger or go to bed without eating in Africa,” he has told the media.

 

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