The government is not coming out clear on the number of delegates who will accompany President Peter Mutharika to the 2019 United Nations General Assembly (Unga) in the United States (US) Wednesday and the budget for the trip.
A statement from Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry released on Sunday confirms Mutharika’s departure for the US but falls short of disclosing the number of delegates and the budget.
State House Press Secretary, Mgeme Kalilani, Monday referred The Daily Times to the same ministry for further information.
“I don’t have the figures. Check with the coordinating ministry; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” he said.
But Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson, Rejoice Shumba, did not respond to our questions as we went to press.
Mutharika’s trips to Unga have always been shrouded in secrecy, especially on entourage and budgets.
Mutharika has also oftentimes come under criticism for prioritising Unga meetings at the expense of regional and continental engagements.
During last year’s session, Mutharika described the 73rd Unga as fruitful, saying the meetings were of mutual benefit.
Mutharika urged the United Nations to accommodate African representatives by giving the continent permanent Security Council seats.
Last year, Malawi’s Unga delegation included then Foreign Affairs minister Emmanuel Fabiano, Jean Kalilani (then Gender, Children Disability and Social Welfare minister) and Francis Kasaila (then Labour Youth, Sports and Manpower Development minister).
The then Health and Population minister Atupele Muluzi, Cecilia Chazama (then Home Affairs and Internal Security minister) and then deputy minister of Defence, now Vice President Everton Chimulirenji, were also part of the delegation last year.
Mutharika’s trip coincides with a fresh round of demonstrations organised by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) from Wednesday to Friday.
Briefing reporters in Lilongwe yesterday, HRDC Chairperson, Timothy Mtambo, said the demonstrations would start from Lilongwe Community Centre Ground via Chilambula Road to Area 18 Round-about, past Parliament to Capital Hill.
Interestingly, Mutharika uses the Presidential Drive from Kamuzu Palace via Area 18 Round About to Kamuzu International Airport.
“We don’t know when the President is going to Unga. We made a proposal about our demonstrations last week. We are not aware of the President’s schedule,” Mtambo said.