from MAVHUTO BANDA in Lilongwe, Malawi
LILONGWE – THE historic election of Lazarus Chakwera as the president of Malawi has set the country on a path to mending relations strained with unique neighbor Mozambique over border and historical issues.
Relations between the two Southern African countries have been fragile.
They emanate from the late 1970s over Malawi’s apparent support of the rebel-cum-opposition Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO) during the civil war that would eventually end in the 1990s.
There were also suspicions about Malawi’s alleged involvement in the death of then-president, Samora Machel of Mozambique, in 1986. Machel died in Mbuzini, South Africa
The unease between FRELIMO and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) sowed years of acrimony.
Some semblance of normalcy was secured when Malawi helped broker the peace agreement that ushered in peace in Mozambique in 1992.
The cordial ties would not last long amid reports the later respective heads of state, Bingu wa Mutharika and Armando Guebuza had a tetchy relationship.
Diplomatic relations had been downhill since.
Among overt confrontations is the 2009 clash between the countries’ respective guards at the Caloca border post in Mozambique territory.
In a related development two years later, Mozambican authorities impounded a vessel destined for Malawi.
Counter accusations of sabotage between the nations flared, leading to the collapse of some joint agreements.
However, Malawi and Mozambique have warmed up to each other since 2012, coinciding with the death of wa Mutharika and his successor, Joyce Banda, rejecting a hardliner approach.
Nonetheless, there are lingering tensions over the exploitation of Lake Malawi, which borders the two countries.
Exploitation over the resource has been a niggling source of strain.
The recent election of Chakwera has proven a tonic to normalise diplomatic ties. It saw the MCP bouncing back into governing the country 27 years after it suffered an electoral defeat.
It comes at a time Mozambique is beset by the insurgency by Islamists north of the country, with the province of Cabo Delgado being the epicentre.
Hundreds of civilians have been killed.
The banditry has recently shown signs of degenerating into a regional crisis in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region hailed as a beacon of peace in the continent.
Chakwera has expressed Malawi’s willingness to help achieve peace in Mozambique and the region.
“President Lazarus Chakwera condemned the terrorist actions in the north of the country and expressed his support in order to guarantee peace in the region,” a statement from his office read.
It followed a telephone conversation with his Mozambican counterpart, Filipe Nyusi.
Analysts nonetheless remain skeptical.
“The Mozambique-Malawi relationship is historically somewhat vexed, however, and it is unlikely that Malawi would be Mozambique’s first choice for on-the-ground assistance,” the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) stated.
However, early impressions suggest the two leaders are on the right track.
Nyusi reciprocated the call by his counterpart and has invited Chakwera to Mozambique pending the coronavirus (COVID-19) scourge ceasing.
The pair pledged willingness to cooperate on defence and security issues with a view to eradicating armed violence.
They also discussed the sharing of information against COVID-19.
Malawi shares the largest part of its border with Mozambique, to the east and south.
– CAJ News