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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06LILONGWE258
2006-03-20 14:25:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Lilongwe
Cable title:  

VICE-PRESIDENT'S POSITION STILL IN LIMBO

Tags:   PGOV  KDEM  MI 
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VZCZCXRO5231
RR RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR
DE RUEHLG #0258 0791425
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 201425Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY LILONGWE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2521
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
						UNCLAS LILONGWE 000258 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR AF/S GABRIELLE MALLORY
STATE FOR INR/AA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV, KDEM, MI
SUBJ: VICE-PRESIDENT'S POSITION STILL IN LIMBO

REF: A. LILONGWE 133

B. LILONGWE 137
C. LILONGWE 163

1. (SBU) Summary: Cassim Chilumpha's position as Vice-
President remains in question, as President Mutharika's
government has only partially complied with a temporary
court order re-instating the VP. The political saga
continued on Sunday, March 19, as government officials
barred Chilumpha from welcoming Mutharika back into the
country following a visit to Japan. Both sides are awaiting
a judicial review which will make a final determination on
Chilumpha's status.

2. (U) President Mutharika had tried to remove Chilumpha
through what is being called the VP's "constructive
resignation" (reftels) on February 9. Mutharika announced
that because he had willfully neglected to perform his job,
Chilumpha had effectively resigned, and that he, Mutharika,
had decided to accept this resignation. However, the courts
quickly tried to stop the move, and granted Chilumpha an
injunction against the "constructive resignation." (reftel
B) The VP, who is directly elected along with the
President, cannot constitutionally be dismissed from his
position except through impeachment.

3. (U) After repeatedly (and unsuccessfully) challenging the
injunction in court, government has now only partially
complied with the ruling. They have returned about half of
the VP's vehicles, security guards, and domestic staff.
Chilumpha, however, is moving forward with `contempt of
court' charges against numerous government
officials-including the President, a number of ministers,
and the acting Inspector General of police-for the month-
long defiance of the injunction.

4. (SBU) The latest slight, delivered after Chilumpha had
waited for over two hours at the airport to welcome
Mutharika back into the country, came as he was refused
entrance onto the tarmac to welcome the President back into
the country. This is traditionally the role of the VP, and
as such is one of the most public snubs Chilumpha has
received to date. What's more, it comes after Chilumpha had
been criticized in the media by government officials after
failing to see Mutharika off on his trip a week ago.

5. (SBU) While the Supreme Court has upheld the Chilumpha's
injunction against his dismissal, both sides are awaiting a
full judicial review of the move. The review should decide
whether or not the "constructive resignation" was
constitutional. There is no date set for the review. In a
recent conversation with the Ambassador, the Chief Justice
described the constitutional cases pending before the court
(of which this has the highest profile) as very
straightforward, with a decision likely within a day or two
of arguments being presented. The Chief Justice attributed
delays in other pending constitutional cases to the
Government side (specifically the Attorney General) and
lamented the fact that under the present civil procedure
rules in effect here, the pace at which cases proceed
through the court is largely driven by the parties.

6. (SBU) Comment: The feud between Mutharika and his Vice -
another fight between the President and his erstwhile
colleagues in the UDF -- will certainly figure in next
month's parliamentary sitting, as the court case is sure to
drag on well into April. Meanwhile, the government's
continued attempts to get rid of Chilumpha are beginning to
border on desperation. In a country where official protocol
is often over-done, turning away the VP at the airport was
an extremely public slap in the face. Government's return
of some of the perks if not the trappings of Chilumpha's
office shows that it recognizes it must at least give the
appearance of complying with the courts (and is a clear move
to cover itself against contempt charges). However, from
the actions of government officials (led by the politically
powerful Attorney General Ralph Kasambara, the father of the
idea of "constructive resignation") it is clear that the
government somehow still thinks it can legally prevail, and
is still intent on permanently removing Chilumpha. End
Comment.


EASTHAM