President Joyce Banda on Sunday afternoon left Malawi for the United Kingdom enroute to the United States of America where she is set to perform a number of official assignments including meeting Malawians .
The President’s visit to the UK comes barely eight weeks after the two countries restored relationship that was strained by the former regime of late President Bingu wa Mutharika after he expelled High Commissioner Cochrane Diet early 2011 who accused him of being a dictator and intolerant of criticism.
Banda has been invited to attend the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II who is marking 60 years of her reign.
The Queen came to the throne on 6th February 1952 following the death of her father King George VI and her coronation took place on 2nd June 1953. She celebrated her Silver Jubilee (25 years) in 1977 and her Golden Jubilee (50 years) in 2002.
Speaking on departure at the Kamuzu International Airport in the capital Lilongwe, President Banda applauded the British Government for inviting Malawi to the celebrations.
“We did not know that we would be invited, so the good news is that our relationship has been restored,” said President Banda.
The Queen is the Head of State of the United Kingdom (comprising England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland) and is also head of the 54-member state Commonwealth which includes Malawi.
“Thank God we were not expelled from the Commonwealth. And so, therefore, for me it’s very important to go and join other countries under the Commonwealth,” she said.
“But above all else I will take advantage of this opportunity to have many meetings with other leaders in the Commonwealth that will be attending the event. I have a lot of other side meetings so the next two days will be busy days for me.”
Meeting with Malawians
During her eight-day stay in the UK, President Banda will also have an audience with Malawians living in the United Kingdom on Thursday, June 7.
Initially, the Malawians in Diaspora were scheduled to meet Foreign Affairs Minister Ephraim Mganda Chiume and other government officials on Sunday evening, June 3, at the Malawi High Commission offices in London but the meeting has since been cancelled.
And speaking to Nyasa Times in London on Sunday, Foreign Affairs Minister Ephraim Mganda Chiume said President Banda would want to discuss with Malawians in the UK on wide range of issues on Thursday.
“It is a meeting open to all Malawians,” said the Minister.
He said the meeting will take place from 3pm to 4pm in London at a venue to be announced later.
President Banda announced in Parliament that her government will establish Malawi Diaspora office in Ministry of Foreign Affairs “to harness talents of Malawians living abroad.”
Earlier on June 7. President Banda will deliver a speech at Chatham House, a think-tank in London on “Malawi’s Policy and Priorities for a Globalized World.”
In her speech, the Malawi leader will outline her international agenda in support of broad based sustainable growth for Malawi’s citizens and stability for its region.
Hannington Gondwe interim leader of ruling People’s Party (PP) UK wing also informed that the President who is leader of PP will meet the wing’s interim executive after a general meeting with Malawians.
On June 11th, the Malawi leader is expected to proceed to Washington DC, in USA where she has also been invited to participate in a conference on Development, Democracy and Security.
At the conference, the Malawi leader will be joined by four other female world leaders that include Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Kosovo Madame Atifete Jahjaga, former President of Ireland Mary Robinson and former Prime Minister of New Zealand who is also United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clarke.
“But joining us on the podium also will be USA Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,” added President Banda.
Banda also revealed that while in US she will, in addition, hold talks with the Managing Director of IMF, Christine Lagarde, Vice President of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and other high ranking officials from the World Bank and United States AID (USAID).Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :