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Malawi press called Mugabe Mutharika’s uncle

Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika told civil society in Malawi that he was going to urge President Robert Mugabe to undertake reforms during his visit to the country following criticism over his naming a highway in honour of the Zimbabwean leader.

But sceptics, including the United States embassy, did not believe Mutharika because of the close connections he had with Zimbabwe and Mugabe.

Mutharika’s wife, Ethel, was a Zimbabwean and had a farm in Zimbabwe to which Mutharika often travelled during holidays.

Mutharika’s relationship with Mugabe himself was reported to be close with the Malawian press often referring to Mugabe as Mutharika’s uncle.

Besides, Zimbabwe was also reported to be the home of about three million “Malawians”.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 06LILONGWE365, MUTARIKA QUELLS DEBATE ON MUGABE VISIT

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

06LILONGWE365

2006-04-26 08:31

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Embassy Lilongwe

VZCZCXRO4831

RR RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR

DE RUEHLG #0365 1160831

ZNR UUUUU ZZH

R 260831Z APR 06

FM AMEMBASSY LILONGWE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2675

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0100

RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0205

RUEHSB/AMEMBASSY HARARE 1306

UNCLAS LILONGWE 000365

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR AF/S GABRIELLE MALLORY

STATE FOR INR/AA

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV KDEM MI

SUBJECT: MUTARIKA QUELLS DEBATE ON MUGABE VISIT

 

1. (SBU) Summary: Malawian civil society organizations have

recently criticized the GOM for inviting Zimbabwean President

Robert Mugabe to visit Malawi and open a new road, named

after Mugabe himself. Local NGO leaders say Malawi should not

name roads after human rights violators such as Mugabe.

President Mutharika has privately tried to assuage the

concerns of civil society and the diplomatic community,

claiming that he will use the visit to quietly urge Mugabe to

undertake reforms. However, Mutharika’s numerous connections

with Zimbabwe–including his Zimbabwean-national wife and

large farm in the country–make it difficult to believe he

will push Mugabe too much, if at all. End Summary.

 

2. (U) Mugabe is scheduled to visit Malawi from May 3-5, and

the GOM plans to open the recently completed “Robert Mugabe

Highway” in Southern Malawi during the visit. This would be

the second road named after the president of Zimbabwe, which

is home to roughly 3 million Zimbabweans of Malawian origin.

Mutharika met with civil society leaders on April 24th to

address their fears, capping off a vigorous government public

information campaign of press statements and paid ads to

defend Mugabe’s visit.

 

3. (SBU) According to NGO reps who participated in the

meeting, Mutharika said he would speak with Mugabe, and ask

him not to use the visit as a platform to speak out against

the West–a major concern of civil society (due to their

stated fears that the visit might affect donor funding in

Malawi). Mutharika also agreed to try and set up a meeting

between representatives from women’s organizations and

Mugabe, so that the organizations could voice their concerns

to Mugabe directly. Finally, Mutharika agreed to develop a

statute outlining the process for honoring important leaders,

which was a suggestion of the delegation. For their part,

the civil society groups in attendance agreed to cancel

planned demonstrations during the visit, and to back off

their concerns over naming the road after President Mugabe.

 

4. (U) Mutharika has long-standing ties to Mugabe, and

Zimbabwe in general. His wife, Ethel Mutharika, is a

Zimbabwean citizen. He also owns a large farm in Zimbabwe,

to which he often travels during holidays. Mutharika and

Mugabe’s relationship is particularly close, and the Malawian

press often refers to Mugabe as Mutharika’s “uncle”. These

personal ties, along with the large number of “Malawians”

living in Zimbabwe, seem to be Mutharika’s motivation for

inviting, and honoring, Mugabe.

 

5. (SBU) Comment: Mutharika’s meeting, following up full page

ads and op-eds by government spokesmen in local papers, shows

just how focused the GOM is on making sure Mugabe’s visit

goes smoothly. Yet while Mutharika has privately assured

diplomatic community members and NGOs that Mugabe’s visit

will be kept in control, it is difficult to believe that

Mugabe won’t use the opportunity to yet again take a swing at

the international community. Mutharika’s promise of a

meeting between Mugabe and the NGO community also seems

fairly unlikely to take place, as Mugabe himself would have

to sign off on such an event. Regardless, it seems as if

government is set on naming the road after Mugabe, while

hoping to keep civil society quiet throughout the visit.

EASTHAM

(9 VIEWS)

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