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Malawi - Foreign Relations

Malawi has bilateral trade agreements with its two major trading partners, South Africa and Zimbabwe, both of which allow duty-free entry of Malawian products into their countries. Malawi is a member of two regional trade organizations, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Malawi has continued the pro-Western foreign policy established by former President Hastings Banda. It maintained good diplomatic relations with principal Western countries. Malawi had good foreign relations with Taiwan and South Africa, and received foreign aid from many western nations. However, Malawi was not willing to join the proposed African sanctions of boycotting the apartheid South Africa, and this ended up in worsening the already deteriorating foreign relations. 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, diplomatic relations with all African countries.

Malawi was one of Taiwan's five African diplomatic supporters and Taiwan had been generous in both military and non-military aid, including a USD 2.5 million donation for construction of a new Parliament building in Lilongwe. Taiwan terminated its 42-year-long diplomatic relations with Malawi after the southeastern African country switched its allegiance to Beijing, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced 14 January 2008. Malawi was the fourth country to break relations with Taiwan since 2006 after Senegal, Chad and Costa Rica.

African acceptance of Malawi under Banda's rule had been cautious due to his maverick style and decisions, such as maintaining diplomatic relations with South Africa, Israel, and Taiwan. President Banda judged external matters strictly on the way they affect Malawi. He was a staunch anti-communist (there was no communist diplomatic mission in Malawi; however, in 1982 Malawi gave nonresident accreditation the North Korean Ambassador to Lusaka) and was pro-Israeli. In an effort to maintan a policy of contact and dialogue with neighboring countries, President Banda took un-official stands of no aid or sanctuary for insurgent groups, although it was widely believed that covert aid reacheed the Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO) through Malawi. Malawi continued to enjoy close ties with the United Kingdom , benefiting from aid for. social and economic development projects. In addition to being a member of the Commonwealth, Malawi was a member of the OAU, the UN, and the Southern African Development Coordinating Committee (SADCC).

Malawi and Mozambique share over 1,000 miles of border. In October 1984, the presidents of Malawi and Mozambique met for the first time resulting in the signing of numerous cooperation agreements including. one on border security. Refugees, including RENAMO and Mozambican soldiers, had crossed over into Malawi since 1984; the refugee population exceeded 600,000 by mid-1988. The issue of forced repatriation had been discussed with Mozambique, however, Mozambique was not yet prepared to resettle refugees in such large numbers. In the meantime, many refugees suffered from malnutrition and lack of clothing and water. The government of Malawi appeared to be helping in every way possible, but its basic services were simply overburdened.

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.

Recently Malawis relationship with Mozambique has become strained. An impasse in 2010 over the use of the Zambezi River for waterborne trade and a stalled electrical grid interconnector agreement highlight the challenges inherent to this important relationship. Use of the rail line to Nacala in eastern Mozambique is limited by the poor condition of the track, old and inadequate rolling stock and engines, and inferior port facilities at Nacala. There has been a resurgence of interest in the development of the Nacala corridor. The Brazilian company Vale has invested in efforts to export coal from the Moatize/Tete region in western Mozambique through Malawi to Nacala. The Nacala corridor project involves mutual benefits to Mozambique and Malawi, and it could improve the strained relationship between the two countries and contribute to stronger regional economic integration.

Tanzania and Malawi plan to seek mediation from former heads of state in Southern Africa to help resolve a long-running border dispute over Lake Malawi. The lake is believed to have rich oil and gas reserves. Malawi claims jurisdiction over the entire lake, while Tanzania contends it is entitled to half of the lake. Tanzania stood by their belief that the border lies in the middle of the lake and Malawi still goes by the 1890 treaty between the Germans and the British, which puts the border at the shores of the lake.

Important bilateral donors, in addition to the U.S., include Canada, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Multilateral donors include the World Bank, the IMF, the European Union, the African Development Bank, and United Nations organizations.

Malawi continues to work to strengthen its relationships with other nations that are not historical bilateral donors. These nations include Cuba, India, Iran, and the Peoples Republic of China. Efforts at building these relationships have included high-level visits and the exchange of ambassadors.

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, African Union, Cotonou Agreement, African Development Bank (AFDB), Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), Nonaligned Movement, G-77, and the World Health Organization (WHO).





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