Foreign relations of Malawi
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Malawi's former President Bakili Muluzi continued the pro-Western foreign policy established by former President Hastings Banda. It maintains excellent diplomatic relations with principal Western countries. Malawi's close relations with South Africa throughout the apartheid era strained its relations with other African nations. Following the collapse of apartheid in 1994, Malawi developed, and currently maintains, strong diplomatic relations with all African countries.
Important bilateral donors include Canada, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Iceland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Republic of China (Taiwan), the United Kingdom, and the United States. Multilateral donors include the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, the African Development Bank, and the United Nations organizations.
Malawi assumed the chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2001. Muluzi took an active role in SADC on issues such as the global coalition against terrorism and land reform in Zimbabwe.
Malawi has been a member of the ACP group since Lomé I and is also a party to the Cotonou agreement, the partnership agreement between the European Community/European Union and 77 states from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.
Memberships in international organizations
Malawi is a member of the following international organizations: UN and some of its specialized and related agencies (i.e. UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO), IMF, World Bank, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Berne Convention, Universal Copyright Convention, Organization of African Unity (OAU), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Lome Convention, African Development Bank (AFDB), Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), Non-Aligned Movement, G-77, and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Relations by country
Since 2008 there has been a significant shift by the Malawian government towards accepting investment from China. Potentially this may be part of a wider power struggle between the East and West in Africa.
Between 1985 and 1995, Malawi accommodated more than a million refugees from Mozambique. The refugee crisis placed a substantial strain on Malawi's economy but also drew significant inflows of international assistance. The accommodation and eventual repatriation of the Mozambicans is considered a major success by international organizations.
In 1996, Malawi received a number of Rwandan and Congolese refugees seeking asylum. The government did not turn away refugees, but it did invoke the principle of "first country of asylum." Under this principle, refugees who requested asylum in another country first, or who had the opportunity to do so would not subsequently be granted asylum in Malawi. There were no reports of the forcible repatriation of refugees.
South Africa's first formal relationship with an independent African country was established with Malawi, beginning in 1967.
The colonial structures of Malawian labor export to South African mines continued after Malawi achieved independence in 1964. Led by dictator Hastings Banda, Malawi was the only African country to maintain close relations with White-ruled South Africa until the 1994 election of Nelson Mandela. Malawians were viewed as important workers in the South African mines due to their "skills, work discipline and lack of militancy" From 1988 to 1992, around 13,000 Malawian migrant laborers were forcefully repatriated out of South Africa. Officially, this was because 200 Malawians had tested positive for HIV in the previous two years, but many believe that it was due the need for retrenchment of laborers during a crisis in South Africa's mining industry.
Since South Africa and Malawi had their first democratic elections in 1994, Malawi and South Africa have enhanced relations. In 2008, the two governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding designed to enhance the relationship between the two countries through enhanced security cooperation.
The transition from a one-party state to a multi-party democracy significantly strengthened the already cordial U.S. relationship with Malawi. Significant numbers of Malawians study in the United States. The United States has an active Peace Corps program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services, and an Agency for International Development (USAID) mission in Malawi.
In July, the United States suspended direct funding. The US government agency responsible, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, suspended aid because it was 'deeply upset' by the deaths of the 19 people during the July protests.
Historical ties, especially with Scotland, make the UK historically one of the more important donors and supporters of Malawi. However, the expulsion of the UK's High Commissioner in April may change this relationship. Since the expulsion the UK has suspended direct government aid, citing concerns over governance and human rights.
See also the Cochrane-Dyet 2011 Cable Controversy.
- "China puts its mark on Malawi | Global development". London: theguardian.com. 7 May 2011.
- Glennie, Jonathan (2010-12-10). "WikiLeaks cables: China's aid to Africa has strings attached | Jonathan Glennie | Global development". London: theguardian.com.
- Department of Foreign Affairs, South Africa
- Aliens and AIDS in Southern Africa: The Malawi-South Africa debate by Wiseman Chijere Chirwa, in African Affairs, 97:53-79 (1998)
- Country, Malawi to Enhance Defence Co-Operation by Bathandwa Mbola, BuaNews, 25 February 2008
- "BBC News - US suspends aid to Malawi after killings". Bbc.co.uk. 2011-07-26.
- "BBC News - UK cuts aid to Malawi government". Bbc.co.uk. 2011-07-14.