|04LILONGWE612||2004-07-02 09:11:00||UNCLASSIFIED||Embassy Lilongwe|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LILONGWE 000612
1. (U) SUMMARY. Dr. George Chaponda, Malawi's new Minister
of Foreign Affairs was sworn in on June 16 (reftel A).
Chaponda, after nearly twenty years of UNHCR service, seems
eager to raise standards of professionalism and fiscal
discipline in his ministry, and would like to explore the
possibility of establishing a Malawi mission to the UN in
Geneva. Chaponda anticipates progress on the Nacala Corridor
project and looks forward to working with the USG in his
efforts to reduce poverty and increase economic growth in
Malawi. Biographical information begins in paragraph 6. END
2. (U) On June 28, CDA paid an introductory call to new
Minister of Foreign Affairs George Chaponda. Accompanied by
DCM and Poloff (notetaker), the CDA's visit served as post's
introduction to the minister. Chaponda, an experienced UN
diplomat, said that the new GOM intends to professionalize
and streamline it's diplomatic corps. He said he is
interested in ensuring that GOM embassies abroad "are
proactive in promoting trade, investment, and tourism."
Chaponda did not give any indication of the veracity of
recent rumors that the GOM may soon begin closing embassies
as a cost-saving measure, though he did indicate that he
would be in favor of possible consolidation or downsizing.
Chaponda indicated that the GOM would like the chance to use
whatever "incentives" may be available in order to establish
a mission to the UN in Geneva, noting that he had previously
advocated for this, and would continue to do so even if it
means folding an existing embassy nearby into a new one in
3. (U) When asked about GOM delays in signing a Direct
Agreement with OPIC which would guarantee a $30 million loan
to rehabilitate the Nacala Corridor (reftel B), Chaponda said
he "didn't see any problem with it moving forward." He
believed that GOM resolution was forthcoming, and assured CDA
he would pass along to the Minister of Trade the USG's desire
to see the project completed.
4. (U) Chaponda expressed his eagerness to work in
partnership with the USG in order to achieve President
Mutharika's goals of reducing poverty and increasing economic
growth in Malawi. Recalling his extensive personal knowledge
of the long association between the USG and GOM, he cited the
Peace Corps as a valuable component of USG assistance. He
said he regretted that a scheduling conflict (Chaponda
departed Malawi on June 29 for the AU conference in Addis
Ababa) would prevent his attendance at the mission's official
Independence Day celebration on July 1. He added that he is
planning to attend the upcoming UNGA, and said that President
Mutharika may do so as well (reported septel).
5. (SBU) COMMENT. Chaponda's extensive international
experience and substantial education are readily apparent.
He gave the impression he is engaged, articulate, and
generally friendly to the USG. His educational and
professional experience have allowed him to live and work in
the US, and he seemed eager to maintain strong ties with the
USG in his ministerial role. His support of President
Mutharika was also on display, as Chaponda repeatedly
referred to the President's economic goals. We expect
Chaponda will be a competent, articulate, and loyal public
servant as Minister of Foreign Affairs. END COMMENT.
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: DR. GEORGE CHAPONDA
6. (SBU) Chaponda, a newcomer to Malawian politics and the
United Democratic Front (UDF) inner circle, entered Malawi's
political scene in 2003 when he contested and won the
position of the party's Director of Research, defeating
former UDF heavyweight and then Minister of Lands Thengo
Maloya. In the 2004 presidential and parliamentary
elections, Chaponda won a parliamentary seat in Mulanje and
became Minister of Foreign Affairs in newly-elected President
Bingu wa Mutharika's cabinet. As a retired UN official, he
has extensive international experience. Close associates
describe him as a quiet and thoughtful man.
7. (U) Chaponda worked for UNHCR for nearly twenty years
before retiring in 2002. His UNHCR assignments included Head
of Legal Section in Mogadishu (1983-1985); Deputy
Representative to Kenya (1985-1989); Head of Legal Section in
Bangkok (1989-1992); Deputy Representative to Bangladesh
(1993-1994); Chief of Section for Recruitment and Emergency
Staffing, Geneva (1994-1995); Head of Sub-Office in Ngara,
Tanzania (1995-1996); Deputy Regional Representative,
Austria (1996-1998); Resident Representative, Poland
(1998-2000). In 2002 Chaponda served as UNHCR Deputy
Regional Director, East and Horn of Africa and Great Lakes
Region, based in Addis Ababa. Concurrent with his
ministerial position, he is also serving as the UDF's
Director of Research.
8. (U) Chaponda spent much of his youth in Zambia. After
attending Blantyre Secondary School in Malawi, he completed a
B.A. and M.A. in Political Science/History at the University
of New Delhi in India. He then completed a law degree in
Zambia, and obtained his JD at Yale School of Law in 1984.
While working at Yale as a visiting lecturer, he was
recruited by UNHCR.
9. (SBU) Chaponda is from the same Lomwe ethnic group as
President Mutharika. They both hail from Mulanje District in
the Southern Region.
10. (SBU) Chaponda is the uncle of former National Democratic
Alliance (NDA) member of Parliament Lizzie Mpinganjira, who
is the wife of NDA president and former presidential
candidate Brown Mpinganjira.
11. (U) Digital photo will be sent to INR/B via email.