- North Africa
- Diplomacy - Religion
Is religion behind ’severed’ diplomatic ties between Malawi and Libya ?
Malawi President throws light on a murky issue
Malawi President Binguwa Mutharika has clarified what he termed as a "misconception" surrounding his country’s diplomatic ties with Libya.
This followed Malawi’s decision to close its mission in Tripoli after which Libya followed suit by closing its embassy in Lilongwe.
Dr. Mutharika told a press conference in Lilongwe Wednesday that he held talks with his Libyan counterpart, Muammar Kadhafi, on the side-lines of the just-ended African Union summit in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheik.
"There was, I think, a misconception that we had broken off diplomatic ties with Libya; it’s not true," he said.
Mutharika said Malawi was stream-lining its diplomatic missions to cut costs, pointing out that his government took a position to have non-residential relationship with Libya.
"This was not targeted against Libya as a country because if you remember we closed our embassy in Canada; we closed our embassy in Paris (France); we closed our embassy in Nairobi (Kenya); we closed our embassy in Windhoek in Namibia; and then we closed our embassy in Tripoli (Libya)," he said.
Malawi established diplomatic ties with Libya during the regime of former president Bakili Muluzi.
Muluzi, a Muslim, and Kadhafi, cultivated a personal relationship with the Libyan leader, directly funding Muluzi’s former ruling United Democratic Front (UDF). He also funded a number of mosques.
When Mutharika succeeded Muluzi, the later still maintained ties with Kadhafi, sneaking into Libya once in a while.
After Mutharika fell out with Muluzi, after ditching the UDF (the party that ushered him to power), all projects funded by Libya stalled, fuelling insinuations that Malawi had broken ties with Libya.
But Mutharika said all is now well between Malawi and Libya.
"That misunderstanding that was there is no longer there," he said. "They have heard our position and we have heard their position and I think that I could see that there is mutual understanding of our relations; we will be moving forward... you know [with our] cooperation within the context of the African Union."
Mutharika also disclosed that a delegation of Libyan officials will be in Malawi "very soon to explore areas of investment".
Among the stalled projects the Libyans were funding was the multi-million-dollar Kadhafi Hospital in the commercial capital, Blantyre. Panapress .