Accused of embarrassing country at meets
- JB’s team demands exact incidents
Immediate past president Joyce Banda has come under fire from government and a rights activist for allegedly embarrassing the country at international meetings.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation George Chaponda and activist Billy Mayaya have since advised Banda, fondly known by her initials JB, to engage her successor Peter Mutharika for the good of the country’s international image.
But JB’s spokesperson Andekuche Chanthunya has laughed off the accusations, demanding evidence of cases where Banda has embarrassed the country.
The developments follow Banda’s attendance of United Nations (UN) meetings where government officials were separately invited and held different views on matters under discussion.
In an interview last week Thursday, Chaponda said while Banda has the right to do what she pleases, the need for Malawi not to be embarrassed for taking different positions at meetings or engagements due to lack of consultation must not be compromised.
Said Chaponda: “We don’t want to be misunderstood that we are jittery about former president Banda’s travels. Our fears are simply that if she continues to avoid engaging with her successor, the country will continue to face the embarrassment of holding different views and positions when, as a country, we should be holding the same position on issues of national concern.”
He said if Banda had consulted Mutharika, there would not have been need for government to send its own representatives to the meetings she was attending.
Said Chaponda: “She would have been the President’s and government’s envoy. This is what happens in all the civilised world.”
On the other hand, Mayaya said it was awkward that the former president did not engage with her successor before travelling to the UN.
He said UN meetings must cater to the consensus of the nation not serve the interests of individuals.
Said Mayaya: “When you attend UN meetings, you are not representing yourself. You are representing a country. It is the country’s position that must be represented.
“Politics aside, a sense of protocol should have helped madam Banda to understand the importance of informing the sitting Head of State, especially when both were heading to the same meeting.”
He urged Banda to receive the olive branch that Mutharika provided for the country to be healed and reconciled.
Banda attended side events of the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly, creating awkward moments of running into unsuspecting government officials.
She has not been speaking to the press.
For example, on September 22, she was among more than 130 women leaders demonstrating their commitment to climate change whereas on September 24, Banda attended a high-level meeting on A World at School, a global business coalition for education organised by former British prime minister Gordon Brown.
During the meeting, Banda asked governments and all global leaders to commit to keeping girls in school from primary level up to tertiary education.
And on September 25, she was a panellist at the UN side event for first ladies global call to action conference on women and girls financial health organised by the government of Belize.
At this meeting, Banda highlighted her achievements during her two years in office, citing examples that her safe motherhood drive contributed to eduction from 1 000 deaths to 625 live births per 100 000.
She, therefore, called on all the first ladies to emulate her and make a deliberate effort to send girls to school.
Banda hailed Uganda president Yoweri Museveni, Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame for their efforts to put deliberate efforts by considering women in decision-making positions.
Reacting to accusations against Banda, Chanthunya said Chaponda had no basis and evidence to say that JB’s presence at the side meetings were an embarrassment to the Malawi Government.
He said it was important for government to understand that the former president was not invited to the UN side meetings as a representative of government, but as a citizen of a member State and in some cases as founder of the Joyce Banda Foundation International.
Said Chanthunya: “Her role in those meetings was in those two capacities. It would, therefore, be interesting to hear from Dr. Chaponda which incidences he is referring to.
“He should give us specific places where government was ashamed because of the former president and the reasons for the embarrassment.
“She didn’t have to scramble for international attention. The fact that she was actually invited to these meetings for the various roles she played showed that she is a global figure, she has actually been that for a very long time. The sooner government starts understanding that the better because they can then start concentrating on running government affairs than picking fights with a global icon.”
He wondered why government felt embarrassed by Banda’s presence when the two were there in their distinct capacities.
This is the second time for the former president to attend international meetings with her predecessor after the US-Africa in August.