Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations Emmanuel Fabiano addressed a press conference on Tuesday about Malawi’s trip to the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) this year. Unfortunately, he did not have the most important information he was supposed to tell the media and nation about the trip. The only thing he announced was that President Peter Mutharika will travel to New York on September 21 accompanied by six Cabinet ministers. How long the President will be in the US for the UNGA, he was totally blank; or he decided to keep that a top secret.
Just to announce that Mutharika and six Cabinet ministers will travel to the annual New York meet accompanied by six ministers hardly deserved a press conference if that was all he wanted to announce. Was there any doubt that the President would not go to the UNGA? In fact, it would have been more newsworthy if Fabiano called the press to announce that APM was not going to UNGA.
What the nation was expecting Fabiano to announce is the size of the whole delegation to the annual conference, their itinerary and how each one of the delegates accompanying the President will benefit the country. Fabiano should also have told the nation how long the President will be in New York and how much the trip will cost the public purse.
He should have taken a cue from his Botswana’s counterpart, Unity Dow, who not only announced his president’s trip to the UNGA but also gave a detailed itinerary of his President, Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi in a press statement, not a press conference.
It is a mockery on our intelligence that as Malawians we are more informed about the Botswana President’s engagements in the US than our own.
The UNGA will take place from September 25 to 28 2018. Prior to addressing the assembly, Masisi will pay a working visit to Tallahassee and Orlando in Florida, and Houston, in the State of Texas. While in Florida he will visit the Texas Children’s Hospital.
From September 22 Masisi will attend an event hosted by the Diamond Empowerment Fund, and will receive $130 000 as contribution to Botswana’s Top Achievers Programme that rewards high academic performance by Botswana students. That is beneficial to the people of Botswana.
On September 24 Masisi will address the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York and on 25th attend the International Caucus Foundation Forum (ICCF) to address attendees on conservation issues. Two ministers—of Health and Wellness and the Minister of Trade and Investment will later join Masisi’s delegation for the UNGA session. President Masisi and his delegation return to Gaborone on September 28 2018. All this we have been told through a press statement. This is the kind of information Fabiano should have talked about.
I, personally, have no problem with President Mutharia leaving for the US on September 21, a few days before the UNGA. He needs to rest before attending or addressing the assembly. But after the meeting, what does he do? When does he return home? What is the size of his entourage? How long will they stay in the US, how will they travel and how they account for all that they will be doing in the US?
Why should we, Malawians, be more informed about the Botswana delegation to the UNGA than our own? Why should a whole Minister of Foreign Affairs be blank about when his President will return home?
If indeed Fabiano doesn’t know, who should know better? Is he the right person to go? Why not ask the President to tell him. Aren’t such logistics made way before the President leaves Malawi? Most importantly, why should Fabiano be blank about what the UNGA delegation will cost the taxpayer? Even if APM has planned to go on holiday after the UNGA—yes, wherever he chooses to go, he is entitled to go on holiday as well—but are we, Malawians, not entitled to know? What Fabiano should know is that in the absence of an announced itinerary, speculation will fill the void.