Ireland President Michael Higgins said he has seen for himself the “warmth” of Malawians with the good reception he received when he landed in the capital, Lilongwe, Monday on an official State Visit.
As the first Irish President to visit Malawi, he was accorded full military honours mounted by Malawi Defence Force when he landed at midday.
He was also greeted to traditional dances.
“I think Malawi is known as the warm heart of Africa and that is certainly reflected in the great warmth of the reception Irish people receive here, they talk about that,” said President Higgins to reporters.
“As the first visit of an Irish President I am very honoured and privileged to be here and to the talks that I will have of any facility I can towards of being any assistance,” he said.
During his three-day visit Higgins said he was to”experience the work that Irish Aid is doing” in the southern African country.
He pointed that the Irish Aid programme has expanded from about €6.7m in 2007 to €20m last year.
Higgins said Malawi, which has a population of 12 million people, faces the most challenges of any African country, including that like Ireland, of debt.
“I’m very conscious that Malawi combines some of the greatest challenges in Africa, challenges of HIV/Aids, challenges of hunger and also an inherited long challenge and overhang of debt.
“I have been interested myself in Malawi and how it extricates itself from the stranglehold of inherited debt, where for example in 1970 Malawi had a debt of $290m, it repaid $260m and yet two years ago it had a debt of $230m, it had been paying interest,” said the Irish leader.
Speaking Monday night at a dinner hosted by Malawi Head of State Arthur Peter Mutharika, Higgins has said memories of the first World War should forever be a warning against extreme nationalism.
“No other dependency in Africa suffered the loss of such a high proportion of its young manhood as Malawi did…May the remembrance of those events guard us forever against the dark passions of extreme nationalism.”
He also congratulated Malawi for celebrating in July the 50 years of independence from Britain.
“One of the most damaging aspects of colonialism, I believe, is the way it shatters our view of the past. How to imagine a future released from the burdens of distorted past memories and seemingly insurmountable, present difficulties?”
He suggested the key lay in the word “imagine”. It was “the important term here”, he said. “Indeed, while brutal and inhuman deeds cannot, for the most moral of reasons, be forgotten, it is only through an act of imagination and creativity that we can prevent the tragic past from colonising the future.”
Higging is visiting Malawi from Addis Ababa on his African tour and has since called for a rethink of the world’s relationship with Africa .Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :