President Peter Mutharika has directed that Vice-President Saulos Chilima should no longer be co-chair of the Malabo Montpellier Forum, an international think tank to which he was appointed.
The Malabo Montpellier Panel, comprising 17 leading African and European experts in agriculture and public policy, appointed Chilima as co-chair in September, 2017. Chilima co-chairs the forum with Minister of State for Planning and Development of Benin, Abdoulaye Bio Tchané.
The Vice-President was expected to co-chair and host the forum in Lilongwe on Tuesday to launch a new report by the panel titled Mechanized: Transforming Africa’s Agriculture Value Chains.
A letter which has been sourced addressed to the Secretary to the Vice-President Clement Chinthu Phiri from Chief Secretary Lloyd Muhara dated July 7, 2018 directs that the international conference should instead be presided over by Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Joseph Mwanamveka
“I write to inform you that His Excellency Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika has assigned Hon Joseph Mwanamvekha, MP in his capacity as Minister of Agriculture to chair the Malabo Montpellier Forum which Malawi will host on 10th July, 2018,” the letter reads.The letter directs that Mwanamvekha chairs the forum in his capacity as Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development.
It adds: “I would appreciate if you take note of this assigned role and inform the relevant parties accordingly.”
To show that it is the Vice-President who is the target for the reassigning, the Chief Secretary expects the Vice-President’s office to continue the coordination of the event.“Meanwhile, your office should continue playing the coordinating role to make this event a success,” the letters ends.
But in an interview yesterday, Chinthu Phiri said he did not have the information that there was a change in the lead host of the forum.
He added that he would know more on Monday (today), the day the delegates are expected to arrive for the event. Government spokesperson Nicholas Dausi, on the other hand, asked for more time to consult.
But a press conference that three principal secretaries were to hold on Sunday afternoon was cancelled without giving reasons.
Chilima first co-chaired the forum in December, 2017 in Cotonou, Benin where the Malabo Panel of experts reviewed a report which analysed policy decisions that African countries have taken to reduce malnutrition levels and to promote healthier and more diverse diets, according to the forum website.
It is hosted by the West and Central African Office of the International Food Policy Research Institute, the University of Bonn and Imperial College London.
The forum meets twice a year bringing together representatives from countries that have made the most progress in a given strategic area to share their experiences with others.
Last week, Mutharika also removed the functions assigned to the Vice-President as Minister Responsible for the Department of Disaster Management Affairs as well as Public Events.
This follows Chilima’s declaration in an interview with Zodiak Broadcasting Station earlier last week that he would contest in the presidential election in 2019 and contemplates to stand under a grand coalition of political parties.
During the interview last Wednesday, Chilima also said details of the grand coalition would be announced within the next 10 days.
Headquartered in Dakar, Senegal, the Malabo Montpellier Panel was established to advance the continental agricultural agenda under the Malabo Declaration’s expanded Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme.
reporting by Suzgo Khunga for Malawi Nation