Visiting UK Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell has said his talks with Malawi President Joyce Banda this week marked the beginning of a new era between Malawi and Britain.
Malawiâ€™s relations with Britain soured mid-last year after the previous administration of the late president Bingu wa Mutharika expelled the then British High Commissioner Fergus Cochrane-Dyet for allegedly describing the president as increasingly becoming autocratic.
Britain retaliated by expelling Malawiâ€™s Charge dâ€™Affaires in London, Flossie Gomile-Chidyaonga, and suspending aid.
At a joint news conference with Banda at Sanjika Palace on Thursday, Mitchell, visiting Malawi for the first time, reiterated that his government is impressed with President Bandaâ€™s economic reforms and that Britain is determined to assist Malawi.
Mitchell said Britain is already implementing a Â£33 million (about K13.7 billion) aid package to help Malawi from the shocks of the recent devaluation of the kwacha. He said it is his hope that other countries will emulate the UKâ€™s move and start assisting Malawi.
Responding to questions from journalists, Mitchell dismissed as untrue suggestions that his government attaches aid to issues of minority rights which encompass accommodation of homosexuals and lesbians.
President Banda said recently that her government was considering a repeal of the same sex law that criminalises homosexuality.
Said Mitchell: “Our aid is not tied to specific progress [that Malawi has taken on human rights]. The support is not on that basis as it has been wrongly suggested by the media. My government calls for respect for human rights for all and I have no regrets for that.”
The President had a one-on-one meeting with Mitchell on Wednesday and later her team met Mitchellâ€™s team and other stakeholders to assess the complexity of challenges facing Malawi and how the UK can support Lilongweâ€™s economic and political development.
During the news conference, Britain also launched its new strategy that runs to 2015 and tackles areas such as health, education, agriculture, growth and private sector development, empowerment of women and development, promotion of good governance, human rights and prudent economic management.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Patrick Kabambe read a statement on the discussions between Banda and Mitchell, stating that his visit was a symbol of restoration of cordial relationship between the two nations.
Kabambe said Banda, who rose to the presidency in line with constitutional order on April 7 2012 after Mutharikaâ€™s death in office, told Mitchell that her mission was to eradicate poverty through economic growth and wealth creation, and to achieve this, she is determined to commence discussions with IMF to facilitate re-establishment of Malawiâ€™s programme with the Fund, liberalisation of foreign exchange rate, growing the private sector, among others.
Mitchell leaves this Friday.