- Lilongwe tells recalled Washington DC envoys
- Ex-diplomat faults govt approach
Government has given recalled diplomats at the Malawi Embassy in Washington DC, USA two weeks to return home or risk having their diplomatic passports and status revoked.
While these particular conditions have been given to Ambassador Edward Sawerengera and his colleagues at the Washington DC mission, the fate of recalled diplomats in other countries remain unknown.
This is the latest attempt by government to have the diplomats return home amid growing reports of resistance from most of them.
However, ex-diplomat and international relations expert John Chikago has faulted government’s approach in handling the matter.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Rejoice Shumba confirmed in an interview yesterday that government issued the Washington DC mission cut-off date after the diplomats failed to honour previous dates they were given.
She, however, hinted at the situation applying to recalled diplomats in other countries.
“We have been giving them different dates, which kept on changing depending on the situation in their host countries and other factors. So, this is the new date we have given them after they failed to honour the deadline they were previously given,” explained Shumba.
Beside, some diplomats giving excuses, other factors that have affected implementation of the repatriation exercise include Covid-19 pandemic and lack of funding.
In his strongly-worded letter to Sawerengera, Secretary for Foreign Affairs Luckie Sikwese accused the envoy of obstructing the ministry’s efforts to have the recalls implemented.
“Deducing from the demands which you have made on behalf of the other recalled diplomats at the mission and on your own behalf during the last two virtual meetings… it is clear that you are, indeed, obstructing the ministry’s efforts to have the recalls implemented,” reads part of Sikwese’s letter dated December 15 2021.
Among others, Sawerengera is alleged to be demanding that personal effects of the recalled diplomats be loaded into containers and transported straight to the shipping vessel in readiness for departure for Malawi, and not to a warehouse, a demand which the ministry has described as “unreasonable”.
“It is against the above background that the ministry has reluctantly been moved to give you and all the recalled diplomats a non-negotiable deadline of December 31 2021 to depart Washington DC for Malawi.
“The ministry will in this regard proceed to issue air tickets to you and the [other] recalled diplomats, including respective entitled dependents,” warns the ministry in the letter.
Further, the ministry has warned that it will not be responsible for any costs arising from any changes to the air tickets “nor shall it issue any other air tickets upon expiry of the ones to be issued”.
However, the ministry has authorised the mission to pay all the concerned their respective entitlements, including the foreign service allowances and rentals up to December 31, thereafter will issue no further payment in any form to all the concerned.
“As the last and final resort, the ministry will not hesitate to deploy a Note Verbale to the State Department to request for revocation of diplomatic status and diplomatic passports should it see it necessary,” concludes the letter.
But in faulting government, Chikago said by suggesting revoking the diplomats’ status and passports, government was “just fooling itself”.
“No country does that on its citizens. Those people were sent to the missions by government and they cannot be treated as if they have committed an offence. Government needs to get to the root of the issue and appreciate their problems,” he argued.
Chikago, who served as ambassador in Japan, observed that recalls are sometimes disturbing, depending on how they are communicated because a lot is involved before they return home.
He said for a long time he has asked the ministry to establish a department of inspection, as is the case in other countries, to ensure uniformity in usage of rules in as far as treatment of diplomats is concerned.
“These people served the country; unless government has other reasons of treating them like that, they need to be respected in the same manner they were upon commencement of their tour of duty. Getting worried with the security of their personal effects is a legitimate issue,” said Chikago.
The former ambassador also accused the ministry of buying tickets from Malawi, when the standard practice demands that recalled diplomats, their families and qualifying dependents are issued with money in lieu of air tickets.
On August 25 2021, the Public Appointments Committee (PAC) of Parliament approved appointments of 18 heads of mission President Lazarus Chakwera appointed on June 14.
Former presidential chief adviser on strategy Chris Chaima Banda, who was appointed to serve in Brazil, did not attend the interviews.
Those confirmed by PAC were Charles Peter Msosa to Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Allan Joseph Chimteza to Beijing (China), Joseph Mpinganjira to Berlin (Germany), Naomi Mkandawire Ngwira to Brussels (Belgium), Catherine Kunje to Cairo (Egypt), Andrew Kumwenda to Dar es salaam (Tanzania), and Justin Dzonzi to Geneva (Switzerland).
The others are Mwayiwawo Polepole to Harare (Zimbabwe), Younos Abdul Karim to Kuwait, Thomas John Bisika to London (United Kingdom), Margaret Kamoto to Lusaka (Zambia), Wezi Moyo to Maputo (Mozambique), Callista Mutharika to Nairobi (Kenya), Leonard Mengezi to India, Agnes Chimbiri to the United in New York, Stella Hauya Ndau to Pretoria (South Africa), Kwacha Chisiza to Tokyo (Japan) and Esme Chombo to Washington DC (United States of America).