- Cites ‘emerging issues’ on his desk
- USA earlier called for virtual attendance
President Lazarus Chakwera has cancelled his planned trip to New York, United States of America (USA) for the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (Unga) citing emerging issues as justification for his virtual attendance.
Briefing journalists during the fortnightly State House media briefings held at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre yesterday, the President’s executive assistant and State House director of communication Sean Kampondeni said Chakwera was compelled to cancel the trip due to emerging issues.
However, the President’s decision has coincided with a USA Government appeal to the more than 150 UN members planning to send their leaders or representatives to speak in person at the meeting.
In a report dated August 18 2021, the Associated Press reported that the USA Government asked the UN member States to consider giving a video address instead to prevent the annual high-level week from becoming “a super-spreader event” for Covid-19.
Chakwera was scheduled to leave for the UN General Assembly through Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) in Lilongwe on September 18.
During yesterday ’s briefing, Kampondeni said the President, who two weeks ago assumed the position of Southern African Development Community (Sadc) chairperson, wanted to move with speed in addressing the emerging issues which he could not explicitly reveal.
He said: “His reason for doing this is that there are emerging issues on his [Chakwera] desk that requires his attention that cannot wait and so in the course of next month the President will be immersing himself in some of these issues on behalf of the Malawian people.”
Kampondeni said Chakwera felt that it would not be important to be out of the country about half the month of September as his absence would cause a delay in resolving some of the emerging issues.
He said Chakwera’s virtual attendance will be both during the general assembly and general debate.
While allaying fears that Chakwera’s absence at Unga will be a missed opportunity, Kampondeni said the President will further be virtually attending other events on the sidelines of the general assembly.
This year’s Unga is scheduled to be held from September 14 to 30 with the first day of the high-level general debate to set for September 21.
Commenting on the USA Government appeal for virtual attendance, a source at the UN Malawi office yesterday said the request was made towards the UN member States to consider attending virtually and not an appeal going to the UN.
The source said: “If there will be anything on the matter then the UN Secretary General will have to issue a statement. But the appeal was not for the UN itself.”
The decision by the President to cancel his physical attendance and opt for a virtual attendance has since attracted praise from his critics who have commended Chakwera on the move.0
In a telephone interview yesterday, Mzuzu University (Mzuni) based political commentator Chrispine Mphande said whi le attending the Unga is important, Chakwera’s decision will help in saving taxpayers money.
He said: “When you look at the entourage that accompanies the President you will find that it is huge. Going there is just flowery.”
On his part, University of Malawi pol i t ica l commentator Mustapha Hussein also hailed Chakwera for the decision not to attend the Unga physically concurring with Mphande’s sentiments.
Chakwera’s physical attendance at this year’s Unga would have been the first since assuming power in the June 23 2020 court-sanctioned Fresh Presidential Election.
The Unga is the main policy-making organ of the United Nations (UN) comprising all member states. Every year in September, the member states meet for the General Assembly session.
I n r e c e n t y e a r s , Chakwera’s predecessors were faulted for taking a huge entourage that included local chiefs and party cadres to the event.