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Cablegate: Malawi Highlights - January 29

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RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHLMC RUEHMA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN
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DE RUEHLG #0080/01 0291220
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 291219Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY LILONGWE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0037
INFO AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION WASHINGTON DC
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0001

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LILONGWE 000080

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
LONDON FOR AF WATCHER PETER LORD
DEPT PASS TO USAID WASHDC

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EINV AU LY MI
SUBJECT: MALAWI HIGHLIGHTS - JANUARY 29

REF: A. 10 LILONGWE 29; B. 09 LILONGWE 650; C. 09 LILONGWE 696

1. (U) SUMMARY: The following is a compilation of recent
highlights from the "Warm Heart of Africa."

-- ALL EYES ON MUTHARIKA AS HE DEPARTS FOR AU SUMMIT

-- BAIL FOR SAME-SEX COUPLE DENIED AGAIN

-- MALAWI'S PARLIAMENT BACK AT WORK

-- BUT MCP MP'S PROMPTLY WALK OUT

-- WEDDING BELLS FOR THE PRESIDENT

End summary.

ALL EYES ON MUTHARIKA AS HE DEPARTS FOR AU SUMMIT

2. (U) Out in full force to cover President Bingu wa Mutharika's
28 January departure for the upcoming AU summit in Addis Ababa,
Malawi media is squarely focused on an anticipated showdown between
Mutharika and Libya's Muammar al-Quadhafi over the AU Chairmanship.
Leading headlines read "Gadaffi Plots Against Bingu" and "Bingu,
Gadaffi Collide at AU." Prominent newspaper The Daily Times quoted
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Augustine Mtendere as saying,
"We know that it is Malawi's turn. If Gadaffi wants to hold on to
the chairmanship, we have nothing to do with that. It is wrong for
him to stick to the chair." Referring to rumored donations by
Libya to other AU members in order sway their votes, Mtendere said
"We can't join that game because of money. We will play the game
of rules; we will not play the game of money."

BAIL FOR SAME-SEX COUPLE DENIED AGAIN

3. (U) The Blantyre High Court denied the latest bail request
from same-sex trial defendants Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven
Monjeza on January 28. The couple made the request in response to
the denial by the lower Blantyre Magistrate Court of an earlier
application (ref A). In making the ruling, High Court Judge
Rowland Mbvundula echoed the reasoning behind the prior refusal in
that "releasing the couple would endanger their safety and induce a
sense of shock or outrage among the public." The trial is
scheduled to resume after 1 February.

MALAWI'S PARLIAMENT BACK AT WORK

4. (SBU) Malawi's National Assembly got back to work after
President Mutharika opened the new session on 26 January. The
opening of the 42nd Session of Parliament was marked by a forty
minute State of the Union Address from Mutharika entitled "The
Dream Come True" where he catalogued his administration's gains in
economic development and food security for the country. The
president strongly noted China's support of several concessionary
projects in Malawi, including an international conference center, a
five-star hotel and twenty Presidential villas in Lilongwe, but
failed to express gratitude for the efforts of Malawi's other
development partners. Observers were quick to point out that
Mutharika did not address Malawi's recent forex woes and fuel
shortages (ref B). Some opposition party members went so far as to
dismiss the speech as a mere "repetition of last year's statement.
" United Democratic Front House Leader Ibrahim Matola was quoted

LILONGWE 00000080 002 OF 002


as saying "There are many loopholes in that speech and we look
forward to finding out how government will respond on those
issues." Parliament plans to be in session for three weeks.

MCP MP'S PROMPTLY WALK OUT

5. (SBU) Drama unfolded on the first full day of the new
parliament on 27 January when tempers flared over the seating plan
for opposition MPs. Still smarting from controversial standing
rule changes passed in the body's last session (ref C), eight
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) members chose to walk out rather than
sit behind the ruling party's hand-picked Leader of the Opposition
Abele Kayembe. When the MCP members refused to budge after being
ordered by Speaker Chimunthu Banda to take their assigned seats,
Banda summoned the sergeant-at-arms to forcibly remove the eight.
Highlighting the deep fissures in Malawi's main opposition party,
the members then followed MCP boss (and losing presidential
candidate) John Tembo out of the chamber. Cooler heads prevailed
the next day when the MCP MP's took their assigned seats.

WEDDING BELLS FOR THE PRESIDENT

6. (U) It is now official: President Mutharika will tie the knot
with former Minister of Tourism and Wildlife Callista Chapola
Chimombo. Ending several months of speculation over the
relationship between widower Mutharika and widow Chimombo, a
statement from State House announced that the two will be engaged
in a traditional ceremony on Valentine's Day (February 14) and then
walk to the altar on Malawi Labour Day (May 1). Malawi media and
the public had been abuzz after several recent public events where
Chimombo was seated next to or near the President. Speculation
increased when in December, in an apparent breach of protocol, the
future first lady was seated next to Mutharika while Malawi's Vice
President Joyce Banda occupied the third seat over. Chimombo was
also recently named Malawi's High Commissioner to Zimbabwe, but it
is unclear whether she still plans to take up the position.
BODDE

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