Economy - Development | Politics
Malawi continues war on donors
According to statements by Davy Chingwalu of the Malawian police force, the Norwegian Embassy in Lilongwe for the third year in a row had "funded" funded the allegedly "subversive" Freedom March organised by a performing arts group to mark Malawi's "Martyr's Day" yesterday.
Norway earlier this year demanded a payback of euro 2.7 million (US$ 3.8 million) of development aid funds that had been spent on other sectors than agreed. The demand created great headlines in Malawi, but government agreed to repay the funds.
Conflict with donors was deepened in February as Malawi was preparing repressive legislation victimising sexual minorities and further limiting press freedom. Combined with other signs of an increased level of human rights violations, Western donors made it clear they had enough.
Germany and the US took the lead in condemning these new repressive tendencies.
Currently, euro 2.5 million of German budget aid for Malawi for 2010 are still held back and a further euro 5 million in budget aid for 2011 have been frozen. Deputy Development Minister Gudrun Kopp last month cancelled her planned trip to Malawi, explaining that he frozen aid funds would only be released when "the democratisation process sees positive developments," stated Ms Kopp.
The toughest message so far was given by the US aid agency MCC, which in January signed a record US$ 350 aid deal to renovate Malawi's energy sector. In February, the MCC decided to delay the release of these funds until clarifications were given about the new legislation. The MC
The German and US moves were followed up by joint action by Malawi's eight main donors. France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Norway, the UK and the US last month presented government with a joint statement condemning "certain negative trends in the country," referring to the same legislation.
"As partners and friends, we would like to recall that good governance and respect for human rights - including freedom of expression, observance of democratic principles, and freedom from discrimination - are the foundation upon which our partnership is built," the statement reads.
The Malawian government so far has not been willing to give into the demands from donors. Only this week, President Bingu wa Mutharika defended the repressive media legislation. Also, gay and lesbian sexual relations were banned last month. Also, police reactions to possible "subversive" events have toughened.
Malawi is among the world's most aid dependent nations. During the governance of President Mutharika - a former IMF official - aid levels from Western donors until now had steadily grown as Malawi had been seen to make progress regarding economic policies, the fight against corruption and in democracy and human rights issues.
By staff writers
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