US Ambassador ROBERT SCOTT has completed his two-year tour of duty to Malawi. Scott, though did not live longer like most of his predecessors, he has been in Malawi at a crucial time—when the country witnessed a huge turn in its democracy—the court-sanctioned June 23 2020 presidential election. How will he remember his time in Malawi? Our REPORTER Suzgo Chitete had a chat with Scott on his last day in Malawi [Tuesday this week] and these are his parting shots.
It has been two years already since you came to Malawi, what is your greatest memory?
I really have an avalanche of memories in the two years-plus that I have been here. When I first arrived here at the embassy I took time to look at what was going on in the city because tens of thousands were walking down the streets. So, my arrival here coincided with a political movement. I think to me, my first year—from July 2019 to July 2020—I witnessed a fundamental political trajectory for this country and this was acknowledged by the international community as well.
Malawi held a historical court-sanctioned fresh presidential election in 2020. What lessons have you drawn from this?
I think the lesson is that what we are doing in supporting the institutions of this country is the right way to go because it is the institutions of this country that allowed the citizens to express themselves. For the judicial process to take place and for MEC [Malawi Electoral Commission] to conduct elections, simply shows that Malawi has powerful institutions. Of course, there is more that is needed and we can speak about that as well, but I think that was the main take with me.
What’s your view for Malawi’s governance structure?
Let us start with the end-goal. Wherever Malawi is, the end-goal is to have a responsive governance system; so that elected officials are responsive to constituents and constituents get the services they deserve. And speaking as US ambassador, what we want is to support that process. I will give you an example, asset recovery is quite important for this country. If money disappears, it is important to identify those who took the money and prosecute them, but I would argue that what is even more important is to recover the assets that were taken and give them back to the government so that it can use the same for the benefit of the people. So, that is one area that the US government is working with the government of Malawi.
That is likely to send a strong message to perpetrators…
I think it sends a strong message to them but also to the citizens. The other thing is that we need strong institutions and citizens that support these institutions. We all have to do what we can no matter how big or small we see it. We all must support these institutions that are fighting corruption. Active citizenry is key and that calls for all stakeholders, including the CSOs [civil society organisations] to come in and empower the citizenry. Citizens must not just demand, but they need to participate, it must be participatory democracy.
Corruption has been a cancer for a long time in this country, do you have confidence in the current administration in as far as fighting corruption is concerned?
I strongly support the initial statements that President Lazarus Chakwera made when he just came into office. I think they were powerful and spot on—about being a servant leader, presenting himself to Parliament—I think that was powerful. That is a powerful message from the top—but now we need to see that the ministries are working, the ACB [Anti-Corruption Bureau] is working and that takes partnerships, and that is where we come in. We support this President and his call, and we will support any president that makes that call.
With Donald Trump in power there was fear that the USA would stop funding programmes that promote minority rights [LGBTI]. With change of administration is there change of position?
Every administration comes with changes and in the area that you are talking about there have been changes and there will be changes. Certainly, we have seen that in this area and others when the [Joe] Biden administration came in and replaced the Trump administration, they set different priorities; different areas that they want to be active in.
Certainly, I think the area of diversity and inclusion, or say human rights, is important to the administration and the work that we do here. Part of the work we do here is to reflect on the administration’s priority areas.