Malawi’s former president Bakili Muluzi has urged the government of President Bingu wa Mutharika to “hear me first” before doubting his role as emissary in the diplomatic spat between Malawi and Zambia.
“I’m just am emissary,” he told MaraPost in an interview Friday. “They should hear me first before questioning my role as an emissary.”
He was reacting to a statement by presidential spokesman Hetherwick Ntaba who doubted the former president’s role as an intermediary in a row which Muluzi, according to Ntaba, created.
There’s been bad blood between Malawi and its western neighbour since Michael Sata was elected president last September. In 2007, Sata, as opposition leader, was arrested at Chileka International Airport in Blantyre, and was declared persona non grata (prohibited immigrant) and deported by road back to Zambia. This was after Sata came to Malawi to hold talks with Muluzi.
Sata sued the Malawi government, demanding to know why he was arrested and refused to visit Malawi to attend the Common Market for the Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) summit last October.
A judge is yet to rule in the case.
Ntaba told state radio Muluzi was conniving with other opposition leaders to destabilise the Mutharika administration and Sata’s visit could have been part of the scheme.
“Why should he solve a problem he created himself?” he wondered.
But Muluzi said the Malawi government was being naive to let the diplomatic spat linger on with Zambia.
“I know Mr. Sata, he was very hurt by the inhumane way the authorities here treated him back in 2007, but he was magnanimous enough to forgive the Mutharika administration,” he said. “The peoples of Malawi and Zambia stand to lose a lot if the diplomatic row continues.”
There’re many Malawians in Zambia and vice versa and there’re intermarriages, he said.
Muluzi, who has long time close ties with Sata, took advantage of his official visit to Lusaka late last month to broker a truce between Mutharika and Sata. He said Sata told him Malawi and Zambia are bigger than Mutharika and Sata.
“The Malawi government should have welcomed this gesture without dilly-dallying,” he said.
Muluzi and Sata held a joint press conference in Lusaka where the new Zambian leader told the media he had sent the retired Malawian leader with a peace pact to Lilongwe. But the Mutharika administration received the news with hesitation.
Information Minister Patricia Kaliati said Lilongwe was waiting for an official word from Lusaka, prompting the latter to urge Malawi to stop procrastinating.
Zambian information minister Given Lubinda told his Malawian counterpart through the media to “stop being dogmatic” and listen to Muluzi.
He said the Zambian government wouldn’t officially write the Malawi government on the thaw in the relations between Lusaka and Lilongwe because when Sata was deported, the Malawi government didn’t officially tell him the reason.
“If Mutharika didn’t find it fit to engage President Sata through diplomatic circles, how does he expect President Sata to use diplomatic channels to say ‘I have forgiven you’?” Lubinda was quoted as saying by The Nation. “If they don’t want accept that let them say so.”