Gerald Warner: Scotland’s friends in Malawi have squandered millions
MALAWI fixation is an identifiable derangement observed in certain Scottish politicians, notably Jack McConnell and Alex Salmond.
The death of Malawi’s president Bingu wa Mutharika last week will almost certainly provoke a fresh outburst of Malawi mania among the usual suspects, deeply tedious for the rest of the population.
The official script is familiar. David Livingstone first brought Scotland into contact with Malawi, or Nyasaland as it was called back in the days when only a minority of children there could read and write, but the majority of youngsters in Scotland possessed those skills; today the educational positions are reversed and that country is known as Malawi. The name was invented by president-for-life Hastings Banda, poster boy of the Church of Scotland and respected among his contemporary African leaders for running the tightest police state on the continent.
Banda typified the totalitarian pond life idolised by the anti-colonialist liberal-left, looking for a fix after the Grim Reaper had deprived them of their preferred intoxicant, Uncle Joe Stalin. Scotland went for Banda in a big way. He was an Edinburgh University graduate, a GP in Renfrew, an Elder of the Church of Scotland, an enemy of Britain – what was not to like? He brought Calvinist values – more of the Solemn League and Covenant genre than of Life and Work – to his governance of Malawi as a one-party state. He smote dead 8,000 Amalekites suspected of disaffection and imprisoned 15,000, of whom 3,000 remained unaccounted for.
When four of his cabinet ministers blasphemed against his autocratic rule, supernatural justice struck them down simultaneously in an accident. It transpired that the accident had taken the form of their hammering tent spikes into their heads – an Old Testament fate, if you like. Only after 30 years of Banda’s dictatorship did his image begin to deteriorate in Scotland; but remember, this is a country that still reveres Fidel, Che and Allende. Malawi’s formative history was an appropriate preparation for governance by the recently deceased President Mutharika.
Mutharika was a former World Bank official, like the puppet recently imposed on the Ivory Coast by French arms and money. He managed to cajole 40 per cent of his national budget out of foreign governments. Then Scotland gained independence of a sort, with the establishment of the Wee Scotch Senate, and First Minister Jack McConnell decided that Scotland and Malawi should share their common post-colonial experience. The devolved Scottish government was anxious to advertise its importance by hobnobbing with foreign heads of state, but so far all it had managed was a visit from Scots- descended Flight-Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, President of Ghana.
In 2005, McConnell invited Mutharika to Scotland, despite the fact he was facing impeachment for corruption, and initiated a Scottish aid package for Malawi, although Scottish taxpayers were already contributing to the £65m given by the UK at that time. Scotland shelled out a further £3m; Mutharika spent more than that total on state residences (£1.7m) and Mercedes cars for officials (£3m). Malawi was appreciative: McConnell was made a tribal chief and presented with an “authority stick” – at a cost of £3m, more expensive than most royal sceptres. One can only imagine the chagrin of that other Malawi groupie and collector of honorary distinctions, Lord Sir David Steel.
Then the SNP came to power and the spigot was really turned on. In 2010, for example, Alex Salmond, at a time of crisis in Scottish teaching, gave £400,000 to Malawi for teacher training. Mutharaki, presiding over a country with a per capita GDP of £203, saw these clowns coming, along with other deluded international donors, and made hay. He spent £9m on a private jet and £2m on his wedding party. Scotland’s contribution was relatively modest, but as futile as all government-to-government aid directed to the developing world.
Aid is the new colonialism. This was evident last week in the imperious tone of the US State Department after Mutharika’s death: “Malawi’s constitution lays out a clear path for succession and we expect it to be observed.” Under the Obama/Clinton regime, aid is being used to impose liberal mores on poorer countries. The backlash is growing. On 23 March, the conference of the UN Commission on the Status of Women ended in failure because of developing countries’ revolt against abortion and similar policies being promoted by America. Uganda, Kenya and Liberia have already defied Obama’s proposal to make US aid conditional on legalising homosexuality. Several weeks ago India, a nuclear power with a space programme, told Britain where to put its unwanted “aid”.
Behind the charitable façade, the reality is that donating cash gives donor nations a neo-colonial thrill. Scotland’s patronising of Malawi is more about delusions of sovereignty than improving people’s lives. We must fear more grandstanding in the near future.
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