Palestine has protested President Lazarus Chakwera’s decision to open a diplomatic mission in the contested city of Jerusalem and urged Malawi to respect international law and the sovereignty of Palestine.
Palestine expressed its reservations through its South Africa based Ambassador Hanan Jarrar, who is also a special envoy to Malawi, who met Chakwera at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe yesterday and presented him a letter from her country’s President Mahmoud Abbas.
She said the message in the letter was a concern and an appeal to Malawi to rethink its decision to open a mission in Jerusalem instead of Tel Aviv.
Briefing journalists after meeting Chalwera, Jarrar said she was happy that the Malawi leader appeared receptive to the conversation.
She said: “Malawi must not choose to follow an apartheid State. Malawi must not be party to a colonial-expansionist project. Malawi must not deviate from the Sadc commitment to respect the Palestine.
“Malawi itself was a colony which was liberated with the support of international law and other countries and therefore it must not be one country violating international law.”
In his maiden State of the Nation Address delivered in Parliament on September 4 2020 after winning the court-ordered fresh presidential election held on June 23, Chakwera said Malawi will establish its mission i n J e r u s a l e m . The decision was described as insensitive and a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolution by some diplomacy and governance analysts.
There is an unresolved conflict between Israel and Palestine over east Jerusalem. Out of the
89 countries with diplomatic missions in Israel, only United States of America and Guatamala are based in Jerusalem where about 13 others operate consulates and the rest are in Tel Aviv.
In September, Israeli envoy Oded Joseph visited Malawi and met Chakwera. In an interview, he applauded Malawi’s choice of Jerusalem and said there was no controversy as Jerusalem is his country’s capital.
Since 2017, US President Donald Trump has been leading the campaign to have Jerusalem recognised as the capital of Israel. But when the question was put at the UN General Assembly in December the same year, 128 countries voted against the US proposal, nine were in
favour and 35 were absentees, including Malawi. Togo is the only African country to have voted in favour of the US.
When we first published this story, Chancellor College-based expert in public policy and administration Professor Happy Kayuni said Malawi already has strong ties with Israel; hence, it would be better if the current government avoided the Jerusalem controversy to avert unnecessary negative attention.
But responding to questions in Parliament, Chakwera acknowledged the debate on his decision to reopen the mission offices in Jerusalem stressing that Malawi is a sovereign State and that “relationships will be established with any country provided it is for the benefit of Malawian people”.
Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs Eisenhower Mkaka is in Jerusalem where he met the country’s President Benjamin Netanyau according to the ministers Facebook post yesterday.