MALAWI is deep in a diplomatic thicket again. This time around it’s not as simple as an expulsion of an envoy and thereafter apologising, no. The plot is much more complicated than that. It involves international criminal law and conventions and the fraternity of presidents and despots called the African Union (AU).
So on the one hand, there's African solidarity which invariably means protecting a sovereign head of state accused of committing crimes against humanity and is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC). On the other hand, there is a convention that Malawi as a country freely ratified.
And to complicate matters further is US$350 million compact with the United States which could turn around the country’s energy sector. The next AU meeting will be held in Malawi and the country risks losing this money it hosts Sudan’s Pres Bashir who is wanted by the ICC.
While Malawi decides what to do, there are millions who need the jobs that an adequately powered industrial sector can generate and sustain. There are Malawian women who need electricity to reduce the time and effort they waste seeking firewood and possibly reduce the hazards that firewood-seeking entails.
And then, there are our already decimated forests. These, also stand to lose if more Malawian households can’t switch to electricity as a source of energy.
Holding all the aces is Pres Bingu wa Mutharika, who in the past two years has become his own worst enemy. At the rate he is going, he could need solidarity too from the AU brotherhood in the likely event that the heat in the kitchen that Malawi has become gets too hot.
The US$350 million dollar question: is Al Bashir worth risking this grant for?Grant vs. Loan:
The US$350 million is grant and not a loan. A loan is something you get, say from China, without too many strings attached; other than that you have to use their labour and materials.
Loan interest rates could be low, but the bottom line is that future generations still have to repay for employing Chinese labour and using Chinese materials to construct whatever the loan was applied to.
A grant, on the other hand, is awarded mostly by western countries provided the recipient is ready to meet specified conditionalities. And, nowadays the conditionalities lean towards good governance – a marked departure from the days of the Cold War.
The MCC Compact fits this description to the letter.Carrot and stick approach:
To say the truth the USA has been very lenient with Mutharika’s administration. To drive this point home, this MCC Compact was awarded regardless of the October 2010 letter by the Catholic Bishops titled “Signs of the Times” which prophetically flashed a yellow card for dwindling respect for human rights and good governance.
Now, tired of Malawi’s lack of commitment to good governance, the USA has decided to dangle $350 million at Malawi as a carrot, while liberally poking a stick in and out of Malawi’s exposed hindquarter – poor governance.
This isn’t a new policy for the USA. It has applied the same principle elsewhere. Unpredictable North Korea has been told to drop the nuclear programme to get aid.
This talk of about double-standards is getting old!How would other entities invest US$350?
To put this in a language that most people will understand, we will use football.
In the history of football, US$350 million is just about the amount that Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, and Kaka - altogether – cost their current clubs, way back in 2009.
For the sake of those whose following of soccer does not extend to what is termed “the transfer madness”, let us shelve Malawi’s dilemma and for a while, talk football.
Of all the frenzies that grip the football world each footballing season, the summer of 2009 is remembered the most with respect to player transfer madness.
This summer saw Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic move
to new (and greener) pastures for a combined fee of more than US$318 m (£200m) - an amount US$30m short of the carrot that is now just a sniff away from Malawi’s nose.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s move from Manchester United to Real Madrid for US$127m (£80m -2009) topped the madness. Among other things, his profile
“Cristiano Ronaldo - without doubt one of the greatest talents of his generation and is widely considered to be, at worst, the second best footballer on the planet. Blessed with devastating pace, breath-taking ball control, a vertiginous array of tricks, the ability to strike the ball with both feet, an eye for goal, a defence splitting pass, aerial prowess and devastating dead-ball specialist; CR9 is the complete footballer
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s transfer from Inter Milan to Barcelona, for US$96m (£60.7m - 2009) was the second highest and his profile on ESPN tells his story:
“Viewed as one of the world's top strikers, as well as being one of the most temperamental, Ibrahimovic made a name for himself at Inter Milan and won himself numerous personal awards at the San Siro. Known for his strength, aerial ability and fiery personality, Ibrahimovic has been compared to Dutch legend Marco Van Basten for his playing style
And by the way if anyone has an overwhelming temptation to denigrate Zlatan, they should think twice. The man received a black belt in Taekwondo at the age of 17 and he is therefore not the best man to pick for a fight.
Not the last and not the least in this mad summer was Kaka’s transfer from AC Milan to Real Madrid at a whooping – US$89m (£56m - 2009). Of Kaka the ESPN says he “made his Sao Paulo debut at the age of 19 and in a short time he showed that he was different. Skillful, relentless and possessing an excellent shot; he scored 30 goals in his first two seasons. Many big clubs in Europe set their sights on him, but it was AC Milan who snapped him up
And lo, the equivalent of US$318 million changed hands, and the players went to their respective new clubs.
This is what an amount in excess of US$300 million can do in Europe or to speak like a former student of Reverend Stewart Lane, - in Azunguland.Hosting President Omar Al-Bashir: wisdom or suicide?
Coming back to our agenda, the one thing that Malawi needed yesterday is reliable electricity. This is a very vital ingredient for developing or even developed countries. No-one will argue that generation and supply in Malawi has been, to say the least, erratic.
Now, true to the mzungu
(here comes Rev Stewart Lane again), aided by our ineptness, he has managed to interweave this poverty of power, with one unsavoury President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan – a man we don’t need.
Don’t be fooled by the earlier reference to football; when we last checked, President Omar Al Bashir wasn’t endowed with any footballing skills that would place him on the same page with the likes of Kaka, Ronaldo or Zlatan.
Omar Al Bashir’s resume veers in a totally different direction. His specialty is genocide, according to the ICC.
“Mr Al Bashir is allegedly criminally responsible for ten counts on the basis of his individual criminal responsibility under Article 25(3) (a) of the Rome Statute as an indirect (co) perpetrator including:
· five counts of crimes against humanity: murder - Article 7(1)(a); extermination - Article 7(1)(b); forcible transfer - Article 7(1)(d); torture - Article 7(1)(f); and rape - Article 7(1)(g);
· two counts of war crimes: intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking part in hostilities -Article 8(2)(e)(i); and pillaging - Article 8(2)(e)(v).
· Three counts of genocide: genocide by killing (article 6-a), genocide by causing serious bodily or mental harm (article 6-b) and genocide by deliberately inflicting on each target group conditions of life calculated to bring about the group’s physical destruction (article 6-c).” reads his prosecution application for a warrant of arrest.
A United State lawmaker, Frank Wolf, was actually in Darfur and there, he saw the works of Bashir’s hands.
To date, he has not yet found the mouth with which to tell the horrors he saw and heard of – allegedly committed at Bashir’s instigation.
“His brutal ways, however, are not limited to just Darfur. At a briefing I attended this afternoon I heard first-hand accounts of the atrocities that are unfolding in the Nuba Mountains – reports of door-to-door targeted executions based on ethnicity and political affiliation, Antanov bombers indiscriminately shelling civilian populations, mass graves and a rapidly growing number of displaced persons.
What is unfolding in Southern Kordofan today can only be described as a recurring nightmare in that region: a genocidal government hell-bent on maintaining its grip on power, treating civilian populations as mere collateral damage and Bashir is responsible.”
The long and short of it, according to Congressman Wolf, is that Bashir is a wanted war criminal with unchanged murderous aims. In this regard, he warned Barak Obama that American tax dollars could not be given to countries (like Malawi) which eat, drink and make merry with Bashir
On another day, Obama could’ve turned a blind eye or played dumb and deaf. But behold elections cometh! And Obama knows his voters. American voters, much as they may find stories of the outlaws of the Wild West romantic, and Daniel Ocean’s Eleven scintillating, they also care about how their government is spending money and a genocidal despot is the last person they want to see helped. Part 2 click here
---©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment