Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the government is working on a Bill which seeks to regulate appointments in foreign missions to ensure Malawi dispatches career diplomats and add value to the service.
Developed over the past four years, the Foreign Relations and Service Bill, among others, also intends to establish a Foreign Service Commission as an agency which will be responsible for recruitment of staff in foreign missions.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson John Kabaghe said in an interview last week that the Bill is currently with the Ministry of Justice “for final touches before it is presented to a Special Cabinet Committee for scrutiny”.
“It will probably be ready for the National Assembly by the next sitting of Parliament,” he said.
According to a copy of the draft Bill, it seeks to create a community of career diplomats who can add value to Malawi’s Foreign Service and ensure all appointments pass the scrutiny of the service commission.
The plan is for the Foreign Service Commission to be independent and have a former diplomat as chairperson and five other former diplomats, director of legal affairs, director of foreign service institute as members while the ministry’s representative (from the Human Resource Department) will serve as secretary.
The Bill further provides the required positions in foreign missions as well as grades and required qualifications for each of the posts.
The proposed law, however, still grants the President discretion to appoint heads of missions but at least with direction from the service commission.
Reads the Bill in part: “In order to strengthen the career diplomatic service, and to enable it respond to challenges in international relations, the President shall be guided, as much as possible, by the principle that staffing in a diplomatic and permanent missions should be balanced between career and non-career diplomats, with the ultimate goal of having a fully-fledged career diplomatic service.”
During a press conference upon his arrival from Mozambique, President Lazarus Chakwera said Maputo had offered Malawi to have its diplomats or citizens trained at their School of Diplomacy.
In an interview on Friday, a diplomacy expert at Wits University in South Africa, Bob Wekesa, said it is high time Malawi had institutions specialised in training of diplomacy and international relations.
He said: “It is helpful in creating a workforce with necessary skills to handle the demands of international diplomacy.”
Wekesa also spoke in favour of career diplomats taking up diplomatic posts, saying generally in Africa the presidential prerogative to appoint diplomats have been overly abused.
Former Malawi ambassador to Japan John Chikago on Sunday said deploying career diplomats as mission heads would benefit the country greatly, especially now that there is a shift from political diplomacy to development-based diplomacy.
Since the first multi-party administration in 1994, political leaders, including Heads of State, have come under fire for dispatching to foreign missions their relations and cronies at the expense of value for the country.