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Undule defends Chakwera’s stance against US travel ban on corruption suspects

The sanction will dampen foreign investment and collaboration

Governance and Human Rights Advocate Undule Mwakasungula has defended President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera’s stance against the travel restrictions the United States of America (USA) has imposed on four corruption suspects.

Mwakasungula feared that the travel ban will have a dampening effect on foreign investment and collaboration with other countries.

Five days ago, the US Government announced travel ban on former Anti-Corruption Bureau Director, Reyneck Matemba, former Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) board chairperson, John Suzi-Banda, former Malawi Police Service lawyer Mwabi Kaluba and former Inspector General of the Malawi Police Service George Kainja.

A statement from the USA Department of State says the four are “generally ineligible for entry into the United States, due to their involvement in significant corruption”.

“Matemba, Suzi-Banda, Kaluba and Kainja abused their public positions by accepting bribes and other articles of value from a private businessperson,” it says, adding that the ban extends to suspects’ spouses.

But reacting to the development, Mwakasungula feared that the sanctions will create personal and professional hardships for not only the suspects, but the country as well.

“The potential benefits of this action by the US are not without concerns. The worry of this action is the potential dampening effect on foreign investment and collaboration.  For sure if Malawi will be perceived as a corrupt environment due to the US action, foreign capital and expertise might be deterred, hindering the country’s economic progress,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.

Mwakasungula: The ban will affect the country’s foreign investment

Mwakasungula therefore defended Chakwera for speaking against the ban, arguing the sanctions might undermine Malawi’s ongoing anti-corruption efforts hence it was important for the US to have taken a different approach. 

In his remarks at the opening of the Agriculture, Tourism and Mining (ATM) week, President Chakwera emphasized on the fundamental principle of law, the accused being innocent until proven guilty. The sanctions by restricting their movements, could be seen as pre-judging the legal process.

Mwakasungula said it is also paramount that the US and other partners should remind themselves that Malawi, like any nation, has the right to govern itself, including handling corruption investigations and prosecutions independently.

“External intervention such as through sanctions or travel bans could be perceived as an infringement on Malawi’s sovereignty and a challenge to the autonomy of its legal system. The timing and manner of the US sanctions might raise further questions. The timing of the sanctions, coinciding with ongoing Malawian investigation, might fuel perceptions of interference.

“It could be seen as a “Big Brother” tactic, pressuring Malawi rather than collaborating.  If the US action will therefore be viewed as pre-empting Malawian judicial proceedings, it could be seen as an attempt to influence or by-pass the legal system, creating tension and potentially delaying justice,” he said.

“However, the President’s remarks towards the US were bold, inspiring and patriotic, though carrying some potential risks.  The remarks might bring strained relations with the US  that could affect crucial aid programs and diplomatic cooperation. This could somehow hinder Malawi’s access to resources and international support. On the other hand, corruption  being a  transnational issue often requires international cooperation to address effectively. In this context, the US action could be viewed on the other side as part of broader efforts and international support to combat corruption globally and hold individuals accountable for their actions, regardless of their location or nationality,” added Mwakasungula.

The revered governance and human rights advocate has, however, concluded by observing that the US sanctions and Chakwera’s response indicates the delicate balance between international cooperation and national sovereignty in the fight against corruption. 

He said while sanctions aim to deter corruption, they could also create friction with our national sovereignty and judicial processes. 

“It is important therefore for the US and Malawi Government to encourage open communication to understand the sanctions and explore more collaborative efforts in addressing corruption,” said Mwakasungula.

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