Malawi felt that Mugabe was being treated unfairly


Malawi, which had strong historical ties with Zimbabwe, felt that President Robert Mugabe was being treated unfairly by the West.

The United States embassy said that there was a perception in the Malawi Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the West kept finding fault with Mugabe in an effort to dislodge him.

Some of the issues the West was using against Mugabe were the seizure of white farms, the 2002 presidential elections and the 2005 demolitions of illegal structures.

Malawi President Bingu Mutharika was also said to be a close personal friend of Mugabe and was married to a Zimbabwean.


Full cable:


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Reference ID





2007-02-26 05:46


Embassy Lilongwe



DE RUEHLG #0144/01 0570546


R 260546Z FEB 07


















E.O. 12958: N/A




1. (U) Summary: Malawi’s role in the Southern African region is

limited, as the GOM is primarily focused on internal politics and

local economic development. While Malawi is a founding member of the

Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), it is not particularly

involved in the development or administration of the organization.

However, Malawi’s membership in the African Union’s Peace and

Security Council is enhancing its commitment to peace and security

in SADC. Diplomatic relations between Malawi and its three

immediate neighbors are strong. While Malawi and Zimbabwe are not

neighbors they have a unique relationship based on close social,

political and economic ties. End Summary.


Malawi and SADC



2. (U) Malawi was among the nine founding member countries of SADC’s

predecessor organization SADCC (Southern Africa Development

Coordination Conference.) Former president Hastings Banda was

originally against the idea of Malawi joining SADCC, as Malawi was

at the time the only African country which had diplomatic relations

with apartheid South Africa. However, Banda was eventually

convinced that the organization could serve as a source of financial

aid and provide economic benefits.


3. (U) Today Malawi sees SADC membership as a way of participating

in regional social, political and economic issues. However, there

is little interaction or integration with SADC on the ground in

Malawi, outside of occasional conferences that local politicians

attend abroad. Most GOM leaders have little to say regarding SADC’s

current role and its future development, and the GOM does not

currently have a representative assigned to SADC headquarters in



4. (U) The largest area of interaction between Malawi and other SADC

members is in the area of trade. Sixty-six percent of Malawi’s

imports come from SADC countries, while twenty-eight percent of its

exports go to SADC. Mozambique is Malawi’s largest trading partner

among its immediate neighbors, followed by Zimbabwe, Zambia and

Tanzania, in that order.


5. (U) Another area where Malawi is engaged with SADC is in

international peace-keeping. Malawi has made a commitment to a

proposed SADC standing brigade of peacekeepers. Malawi’s commitment

is enhanced by the fact that it is a member of the African Union

(AU) Peace and Security Council. The Malawi Defence Force (MDF)

currently contributes a company (111 strong) to the United Nations

peacekeeping mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),

which is also a member of SADC. Additionally, the GOM is currently

considering a request to send a battalion of peacekeepers to join

African Union missions in Somalia or Sudan.


6. (U) Currently Malawi is a member of two regional organizations,

SADC and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

While there is no specific deadline laid out, Ministry of Foreign

Affairs officials say the GOM will “have to decide soon” which

organization to resign from as the two organization duplicate tasks.

It seems highly likely that Malawi, which considers itself to firmly

be in “Southern Africa,” will give up its position in COMESA if

forced to make a decision between the two. However, as President

Bingu wa Mutharika served as secretary general of COMESA, his

attitude will be the key factor in this decision.


Malawi and its neighbors



7. (U) Malawi has cordial relations with all three of the countries

across its borders. However, the level of Malawi’s relationships

with Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique differ in scope and particular

in fosus. While not bordering Malawi, Zimbabwe has perhaps the most

substantial ties to Malawi of any country in the region.


Malawi and Tanzania



8. (U) Diplomatic relations between Malawi and Tanzania are strong.

In the 1960s and 1970s Malawi did not have diplomatic relations as

Tanzania harbored opponents of former President Banda. Currently the

main issue between the two countries is a debate over border

demarcation. The Songwe River, which has historically served as the

international boundary, has changed course, creating uncertainty as

to where the real border lies. A Malawi-Tanzania Joint Project group

is working on this issue, which is expected to be amicably settled.

The group is also discussing possible construction of a hydro

electric dam on the river which would benefit`both countries.



LILONGWE 00000144 002 OF 003



9. (U) The partition of Lake Malawi (known as Lake Nyasa in

Tanzania) is also disputed. Tanzania claims international borders

through the lake in line with the colonial borders between the then

German and British territories before 1914; Malawi claims the whole

lake area including the waters next to the Tanzanian shore. This is

based on the British administration of both Tanganyika and Nyasaland

after 1919 which put the whole lake under British Nyasaland for

obvious practical reasons without a separate administration for the

Tanganyika portion. Malawi’s stance is supported by the Organization

of African Unity (OAU) (the African Union’s predecessor

organization) position that all African countries at independence

inherited borders set during the colonial era. The demarcation

dispute has led to disagreements in the past. For the time being the

conflict is dormant and Malawi has not tried to enforce its claims

to the Tanzanian part of the lake area for several years.


10. (U) Currently Malawi and Tanzania, together with Mozambique and

Zambia, are working on developing the Tanzanian Indian Ocean port of

Mtwara, which lies just north of the Mozambican border and some 500

miles east of Lake Malawi. In late 2004 the leaders of the four

countries met in Malawi to sign an agreement to push forward with

plans for a Mtwara Development Corridor. The agreement envisions a

wide-ranging development program aimed at improving trade,

investment and tourism in the northern provinces of Malawi and

Mozambique, the northern and eastern provinces of Zambia, and the

southern regions of the United Republic of Tanzania. However, plans

to implement the initiative have stalled as the GOM–the main force

behind the agreement–has focused its attention on developing the

Shire-Zambezi waterway in southern Malawi and, to a lesser extent,

the Nacala corridor.


Malawi and Zambia



11. (U) Diplomatic relations between Malawi and Zambia are strong.

Boundary claims been have amicably sorted out by a Malawi-Zambia

Joint Commission and beacons are being constructed to clearly mark

the territorial boundaries. As Zambia relies on transport through

Malawi for an outlet to the Indian Ocean, regional transport remains

the largest issue of collaboration and potential contention between

the two countries. Updating raid extensions linking the two

countries, such as construction of the Mchinji-Chipata rail line

funded by the Zambian government and scheduled to begin in late

2007, is a viable area for future development.


12. (U) During the campaign for the recent Zambian presidential

election, opposition leader Michael Sata took advantage of Malawi’s

diplomatic relations with Taiwan, traveling to Lilongwe at least two

times to meet with Taiwanese government and business

representatives. Sata’s trips to Malawi and criticism of the PRC

presence in Zambia gained substantial press coverage and forced the

GRZ to defend its relationship with Beijing. To the extent that the

GRZ believed Malawi was allowing Taiwan to give political and

financial support to a leading opposition figure (and the

President’s nemesis), the incident could have strained relations

between the two capitals. However, President Mutharika’s attendance

at Zambia’s 2006 National Day celebration, where he was designated a

guest of honor, showed that the GRZ had set aside any hard feelings

over the matter.


Malawi and Mozambique



13. (U) Malawi is surrounded by Mozambique on most of its east,

south and part of its west. There are no border disputes between the

two countries.


14. (U) Between 1985 and 1995, Malawi accommodated more than a

million refugees from Mozambique. The refugee crisis placed a

substantial strain on Malawi’s economy but also drew significant

inflows of international assistance. The accommodation and eventual

repatriation of the Mozambicans is considered a major success by

international organizations.


15. (U) The largest current sector of overlap and interaction

between Mozambique and Malawi comes on the side of transportation.

Prior to the onset of the civil war in Mozambique in the 1970s,

approximately 60 percent of Malawi’s imports and exports were routed

via rail to the Mozambican deep sea port of Beira. Though the

railway became inoperable during the war, an important road route

now links Malawi to Beira. Many of Malawi’s imports, including

approximately 60 percent of its fuel, are trucked in via this route.

Mozambique has begun rehabilitation of the Sena Line to Beira

within Mozambique, which is scheduled to reopen in 2009. Malawi

could regain rail access directly to Beira by rehabilitating its


LILONGWE 00000144 003 OF 003



section and linking up to the Sena Line.


16. (U) The Nacala corridor to Mozambique’s Northern coast currently

serves as Malawi’s only all-rail route to port and provides another

route for fuel imports into Malawi. Shipping volume via Nacala is

relatively low at present owing both to port’s degraded

infrastructure, which has made shipping from the port unreliable,

and the fact that road transport to other ports is currently less

expensive and more dependable. Upgrades to Nacala’s rail and port

facilities are currently underway which should dramatically increase

the efficiency of the Nacala corridor, making it a more attractive



17. (SBU) Despite these promising developments in regional rail

options, the GOM, and President Mutharika in particular, is pushing

to develop a Shire-Zambezi Waterway, in order to transport goods by

ship from Southern Malawi through the Zambezi River to the central

Mozambican coast. The concept is still in the early stages of

pre-feasibility assessment, but is considered by many to be

economically infeasible and lacking critical regional support. Most

of the infrastructure investment required to realize this project

would actually fall to Mozambique, which has not demonstrated any

significant interest to date in developing a water transportation

system, instead focusing on developing its rail lines.


Malawi and Zimbabwe



18. (U) While Malawi and Zimbabwe are not contiguous neighbors they

have had a much closer social, political and economic relationship.

A significant number of Zimbabweans, with estimates ranging into the

millions, are of Malawian origin. Both Malawi and Zimbabwe are

former British colonies and former members of the Central African

Federation which also included Zambia. Many Malawians were imported

to Zimbabwe as laborers under the Federation. Also, a number of

both white and black Zimbabwean expats–including the former Clerk

of the Zimbabwean parliament, tourist operators, and a number of

Zimbabwean farmers–are currently living and working in Malawi.


19. (U) In addition to the traditional historical similarities

between the two countries, Mlawi also currently has strong

political ties with Zimbabwe. President Mutharika, whose wife is

Zimbabwean, is a close personal friend to President Robert Mugabe.

According to a Foreign Ministry official Malawi’s stand on Mugabe is

that he is being treated unfairly. There is a perception that the

west keeps finding fault with Mugabe in an effort to dislodge him.

The official pointed to the white farm seizures, the 2002 election

and the 2005 demolitions of “illegal structures” as issues used by

the west to demonize Mugabe. Malawian civil society’s opposition to

the naming of a highway after Mugabe showed that President

Mutharika’s support for Mugabe is not shared by all Malawians.





20. (SBU) Two potential developments within the region could prove

to become major issues in Malawi. As noted above, if the GOM pushes

forward with the development of the Shire-Zambezi Waterway it will

have to enter into serious negotiations with the government of

Mozambique, which would need to build the port. These could expose a

crippling divergence of views, however, as Mozambique has shown no

interest in developing the Shire-Zambezi waterway and instead

remains focused on expanding its railrmad routes and improving its

existing ports. Further abroad, the political and economic

situation playing itself out in Zimbabwe could have an enormous

impact on Malawi, especially if it were to take a drastic turn for

the worse. So far only a few Zimbabweans of Malawian origin have

been repatriated to Malawi. Worsening economic conditions in

Zimbabwe could enlarge the trickle of Zimbabweans arriving in

Malawi. End Comment.


21. (U) This report has been coordinated informally with colleagues

in Dar es Salaam, Maputo, Harare and Lusaka.





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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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