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Cablegate: Au Summit: New Au Chair Malawi Plans Food Security Push

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PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHDS #0278/01 0420410
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 110410Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7713
INFO RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 3478
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1988
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 8052
RUEWMFD/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 000278

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR AF/FO, AF/E, AF/S, AF/W, AF/C, AND DRL
LONDON FOR PLORD
PARIS FOR WBAIN
USEU FOR AFRICA WATCHER
SECDEF FOR DASD VICKI HUDDLESTON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM XA
SUBJECT: AU SUMMIT: NEW AU CHAIR MALAWI PLANS FOOD SECURITY PUSH

THIS MESSAGE IS FROM USAU AMBASSADOR MICHAEL BATTLE

1. (U) February 1, 2010, 4:00 p.m.; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

2. (U) Participants:

United States
Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson
USAU Ambassador Michael Battle
Special Assistant Akunna Cook
USAU Acting DCM Joel Maybury
AU Desk Officer Ryan Bowles (notetaker)

Malawi
President Bingu wa Mutharika

3. (SBU) Summary: Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika was in an
upbeat mood on February 1 during his meeting with Assistant
Secretary Johnnie Carson on the sidelines of the African Union (AU)
Summit. Elected the day before by AU member states as the new AU
chairperson, Mutharika spoke of his intention to focus on food
security during his term. He demurred on the subject of
criminalizing homosexual behavior, but opined that homosexuality ran
counter to Malawian norms. On Zimbabwe, Mutharika said he intended
to use his new position to attempt to move the Global Political
Agreement forward. End Summary.

4. (SBU) A/S Carson met with Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika
on February 1 on the margins of the AU Summit. Carson began the
discussion by offering Mutharika his and Secretary Clinton's
congratulations on Malawi's election the day before to be the next
chairperson of the AU. Carson praised the move as a good one for
the AU, and said it was good for the AU's image to move on from the
previous AU chairperson, Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi.

-------------------------------
Plans for the AU: Food Security
-------------------------------

5. (U) Mutharika told Carson that his top priorities as AU
chairperson are in the areas of food security and good governance.
He wants to take advantage of this year's AU Summit theme -- science
and technology -- and work towards an AU compact on using technology
to attack food security problems. Mutharika would like AU member
states to set a goal of ending child hunger within five years. He
said that if Malawi could become food secure during his short time
as President, it was achievable for all African countries.

6. (U) Mutharika was proud of Malawi's achievements in agriculture,
and pointed out huge increases in crop yields per acre under the
policies of his administration. He even claimed that as a result
Malawian people now referred to 50 kg bags of maize as "Bingus,"
after his first name. Carson responded that the United States would
welcome a strong African partner like Malawi as we roll out our Food
Security Initiative, which will have a strong African focus. Carson
also pointed to U.S. prowess in agriculture as a major reason for
our national success. Mutharika agreed, saying that Africa "cannot
have development on an empty stomach." He thought that food
security and hunger were root problems which would hold back long
term development.

7. (U) Mutharika was passionate and persuasive as he discussed the
various programs his administration put in place to increase
agricultural production. His government is creating a "green belt"
for 20km on each side of major rivers and lakes in Malawi, and
paying for irrigation, hydro-electric, and fish farming. Malawi is
also working to create a strong agricultural extension service, and
educate farmers on the use of fertilizer. Although there is a
strong government role now, he wants farming in Malawi to be a
commercial venture like any other. Mutharika will soon write
President Obama about his ideas on food security.

---------------------------
Anti-Homosexual legislation
---------------------------

8. (SBU) Carson raised the sensitive issue of protection for
homosexuals in Malawi, and said that it was difficult to believe

ADDIS ABAB 00000278 002 OF 002


that homosexual behavior should be treated as a criminal offense,
with jail time, in the same way that we look at a bank robber or
other criminals. Mutharika responded by saying that this issue was
currently in the Malawian court system; the anti-homosexuality laws
were being utilized for the first time in Malawian history; and that
consequently he could not comment since the issue was pending in the
courts.

9. (SBU) Mutharika spoke at length about various biblical and
social reasons why homosexual behavior ran counter to African
tradition, saying at one point that Malawians looked at nature and
saw "no male lions having sex with other male lions," leading them
to believe that homosexuality was unnatural. He never spoke
directly to the issue of why homosexual behavior should be
criminalized, but did say that he thought there was no appetite in
Malawi for legislation along the lines of that which is under
consideration in Uganda.

10. (SBU) Mutharika thought that "a solution would be found" in the
case being tried now in the courts, however, he said it was
difficult for either side to make categorical claims since there is
absolutely no case law on this subject. He emphasized that courts
in Malawi were independent, and he was unable to intervene at this
point.

--------
Zimbabwe
--------

11. (SBU) Carson asked if Mutharika planned to use his new AU hat
to engage on Zimbabwe. Mutharika said he knew both Tsvangirai and
Mugabe, and hoped to reach out them soon. He wants to backtrack to
before the polarization and find common ground. He lamented the
Southern African Development Community process, which he said always
looked optimistic after leaders consulted, but was always beaten
back by Mugabe. Mutharika said he was not optimistic, but was still
hopeful for a breakthrough. He said he knows that friendship with
both players will not be able to carry him through this mediation.

--------------------------------------------- ---
African governance, and Mutharika's future plans
--------------------------------------------- ---

12. (SBU) Mutharika pointed to his public statement after assuming
the AU chairmanship, and said that he wanted to strengthen the AU's
resolve even further against unconstitutional changes in government.
He said that Malawi had a strong democracy, and that there were no
new political prisoners since he took office. Mutharika said that
he plans to step down in May 2014 at the end of his second term, and
that he was already building his retirement house.

13. (U) A/S Carson did not clear on this cable.

YATES

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