Mutharika Misses the Point on Cuba
September 30, 2010 add a comment
Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika has drawn a considerable amount of criticism because of his “global trotting” at a time when his country is suffering from sever lack of foreign currency, a problem that has become perennial.
It is worth mentioning that Mutharika’s Africa Union(AU) leadership may have contributed to it. This is likely to remain aspeculative thought, as Mutharika is unlikely to discuss or explain his trip, even though this is in the public interest.
Mutharika’s recent “global trotting” has taken him toIran, the USA (attending UN summit), and Cuba. Apart from the summit, Iran andCuba may yet raise few eyebrows in the Global North, particularly the USA asMutharika denounced USA’s long-standing sanctions against socialist Cuba. Hemade the denunciation as AU chairperson as he assured the Cubans that allAfrican countries opposed the sanctions.
There is no problem with the choice of friends. Malawiis a sovereign state after all. It can befriend whomever it pleases.Interestingly, history indicates that Mutharika is only observing what isbecoming a tradition by Malawi presidents. All his predecessors befriended‘controversial regimes:’ Kamuzu Banda was the only African president to maintaineddiplomatic ties with South Africa’s apartheid regime. Bakili Muluzi befriendedLibya’s Colonel Gadaffi.
Mutharika will hope that his visit to Iran, an Islamic country, will scored him few political pints at home, as this will help dispel somemurmurings that he is ‘anti Islam’. It is his speech in Cuba that he must be questioned. While his call for the USA to lift sanctions on Cuba is plausible andsomewhat brave, the Malawi leader simply picked a wrong fight – he cannot win andhe has nothing to gain. He may disguise it under the African umbrella, but he cannot hide his Malawian presidentship.
It is quite startling that Mutharika choseto only see Cuba as a victim of USA’s unjust sanctions – which it is, but Mutharika should have paid more attention to what Cuba has achieved despite those sanctions. Cuba has done very well in the crucial sectors of education, health andsocial welfare. These are sectors that Malawi is seriously lacking in.
Cuba’s level of resources makes it a more realist rolemodel for Malawi. Human rights issues aside; Cuban state provide all the essentialneeds for its people. The country has never used USA’sheavy sanctions and trade embargo as an excuse not to look after its people.Countries like Bolivia, Venezuela and Chile have adopted some of the Cuba’seconomic and social policies and they are doing very well economically.
Mutharika’s policies have helped improve Malawi’s agricultural sector and maternal mortality rate, this is plausible and it deserves amention.
What also needs to be pointed out is the fact that a recent FamineEarly Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) has indicated that over a million peopleare still food insecure. Equally disappointing is a recent report by Volunteers Services Overseas (VSO), which indicates that ‘sixteen women die every day inMalawi in childbirth, or from related complications.’ The report also estimatesthat ‘there are now just two doctors and 26 nurses for every 100, 000 people’
These appallingstatics are unheard of in Cuba, a country that Mutharika has decided to rescueand not to learn from. In fact, Cuba is among the three countries with best patientto doctor ratio in the world. World Health Organisation (WHO) figures show thatCuba has 530 doctors for every 100, 000 patients. Is this not a feat that Mutharikamust aspire to achieve instead of picking unwinnable fight against the USA?