APM: from Russia with song of unity

Hon Folks, for much too long APM was stubbornly indifferent to calls for him and his counterparts in the Opposition to show leadership in pacifying the Malawi nation torn apart by bitter rivalry over politics of acrimony.

But surprise, surprise! The lesson that made him see sense in dialogue and reconciliation came from the most unlikely of all places—Soche, Russia.

APM and other African leaders rushed to Soche when Vladmir Putin beckoned, obviously in quest of an alternative to Western aid firmly attached to good governance and Chinese aid already bursting at the seams and which comes at a price much too high for spendthrift African borrowers.

Russia, according to Western media, was eager to strike a multi-billion dollar trade deal with Africa in food and arms. But it appears APM was smarter, opting to use the first visit to Russia by a Malawian President in living memory, by trying to woo investment, instead.

I imagine after the much-touted handshake with Putin, APM, emboldened by the host’s pledge to trade with African countries without interfering in their internal affairs, extending an invitation to Russian business tycoons to come to Malawi, ‘the Warm Heart of Africa’ and see for themselves the great potential there’s for investment in tourism, mining, energy and many other sectors.

At which point the well-informed Putin, while looking at his guest in the eyes, asks: “What have you done about the post-election protests that have led to loss of life, looting of businesses and destruction of government and private property?”

Blaming MCP leader Lazarus Chakwera for the protests as he did at the UN General Assembly recently wouldn’t answer the question, would it?

The point APM and other leaders from the continent miss is this: economic heavyweights of the East may not give a damn about how authoritarian regimes of Africa manage their internal affairs but the exception to the rule is on how Africa deals with Chinese or Russian nationals.     

Ordinarily China and Russia are as likely as western governments to meticulously screen governance issues and other risks before exporting their scarce human, financial or technological capital to investment destinations in fragile economies of Africa. 

Which is why APM was probably surprised to hear from Russia the same concerns that representatives of major Western donors and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) raised shortly before he flew chartered to Soche, Russia, looking for the so-called foreign direct investment (FDI) without strings attached.

In APM’s larger scheme of things, the loss of budgetary support from the West which constituted up to 40 percent of the recurrent budget due to Cashgate and Western donor decision to use off budget channels for the disbursement of much of its development aid due to the porousness of Account Number One, were one big opportunity to wean Malawi from aid-dependency.

Trade was the answer! Ditch donors and embrace investors who would create jobs, broaden the tax base and bring into the country the much needed forex without having to account to donors for respect for human rights and generally good political and economic governance.

I bet now it’s fast becoming a reality that while Western donors have a tendency to give aid with strings attached investors—whether from East or West or the same South where we are one step smarter. They simply invest with their feet, so to speak, from economies that Donald Trump the other day likened to the dreaded parts of human anatomy.

Landlocked Malawi can attract both foreign aid and foreign investment. What is needed is to have something in abundance that isn’t so readily available in other parts of the continent. We had the peace to jealously guard. In addition, with political will could’ve excelled in the fight against corruption, respect for human rights, upholding rule of law and generally practicing good economic and political governance.

Unfortunately, the multiparty government which the majority in 1993 believed was better poised than the one party system to stimulate the nation’s creative genius into action has delivered exactly what Kamuzu Banda feared–disunity and tribal rivalry, thanks to mediocre leadership of the post-Kamuzu era.

Truth be told: in 2019 we’ve reached a tipping point. If APM does not provide leadership to steer the ship back on course, Malawi is heading towards the unenviable status of a failed state.

What is at stake isn’t just the flight of investor capital. Rather, it is primarily loss the very peace which is the bedrock of economic and human development.

Mr President, we cherish the lesson you got from Russia. It’s more precious that a trade deal in AK 47 assault rifle or wheat. Save Malawi by providing leadership that lead to reconciliation and national unity. The buck stops at your office, Sir.

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