Government says its diplomatic relationship with Russia is cordial despite strict Visa issuance to Russians following high security risk classification by Malawi’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services ahead of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
Information minister Henry Mussa said the strict issuance of visas to Russians is standard all over the world.
Mussa said this after Russia made a donation of assorted food items to flood victims across the country.
“These are risky countries whose citizens are scrutinized worldwide. We are not the only country that have strict visa issuance to Russia, India and Nigeria,” said Mussa.
He described the strict visa issuance to the three countries as normal foreign relations standards.
Immigration department issued the strict orders for its staff during the election period which include referring to headquarters issuance of Visas to citizens of Nigeria, Russia and India.
In a memo dated April 23 2019 and addressed to all heads of sections in the country’s border posts, the Immigration Department advises officers to exercise caution in processing visa applications from risky countries (Category 1) and cites Nigeria, India and Russia.
Ironically, the Immigration memo was issued barely a day after a visibly charged President Peter Mutharika alleged at a campaign rally in Ntchisi that some of his challengers had engaged nationals of Nigeria, Greece and Russia in a purported scheme to rig the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections results using information and communications technology.
Malawi has not experienced a big diplomatic row since 2011 when former president Bingu wa Mutharika expelled then British High Commissioner Fergus Cochrane-Dyet for allegedly delving into local politics.
The May 21 election is probably the highly contentious poll since 1994.