By Dr J John Chikago
It is universally accepted accredited diplomatic agents are no ordinary citizen or tourists. Once accredited, the diplomatic agent becomes a privileged individual enjoying tax free benefits and immunities to prosecution. The implication is that the accreditation transforms an ordinary foreign individual into a distinguished and privileged foreign citizen whose conduct is restricted by provision of the’ Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 18th April, 1961.’ This means the accredited diplomatic agent is not a free individual with the freedom to get involved in domestic affairs of the hosting state. Of immediate concern in our country is the recent strange conduct by some foreign accredited diplomatic agents.
Why do they conduct themselves in that way? They take advantage of Malawians for being quiet and peaceful. Although they know the provisions in the Vienna Convention, they take chance of our optimistic culture. It is a fact, they know in their hearts of heart that they could not conduct themselves same way if they were posted to any Western African country. The difference between Malawians and West Africans is the rate of literacy in the population. This was why the United Nations General Assembly thought of issuing the Vienna Convention. The United Nations was aware of the confusion that could arise with the influx of new states that from the decolonisation of former colonial states at independence in the 1960.
Among other things, the meeting define the real purpose for which diplomatic missions are created, the conduct of diplomatic agents, need for respect and immunity. Obviously, invitation and attendance to the convention was motivated by the recognition of the historical role played by diplomatic agents reinforced by provisions in the United Nations Charter in respect of the sovereign equality of states. The convention further defined responsibilities of heads of mission i.e., High Commissioner, Ambassador or the Pope’s Nuncio. It further explained functions of the diplomatic agent which included among other things; representing the sending state in the receiving state, protecting interest of the sending state in the receiving state and promoting friendly relations between the two state. The foregoing narrative is self-explanatory and compels every peace loving citizen to question the recent conduct by the British High Commissioner His Excellency Mr Michael Nevin in accepting to hire forensic auditors on behalf of government to investigate those involved in the recent cashgate scandal?
The fact is that the High Commissioner presented his Letters of Credence to Dr Joyce Banda in her capacity as Head of the Republic of Malawi. It is therefore, clear the recent actions by the High Commissioner on cash gate were in contravention of the Vienna Convention. So long as the High Commissioner lives in Malawi as an accredited representative, he has no right to comment on contentious local issues like the cash gate. This is because donors only contribute 40% to our national budget with the remaining 60% being own contribution. With hind sight, what was required is for the British High Commissioner to apologise for self respect. The Vienna Convention is clear; the High Commissioner is a privileged foreign guest in Malawi. He is no longer a foreign authority as was the case during the colonial period. The reality is that the British High Commissioner has the international responsibly of ensuring continued peace in Malawi failure to do so would be irresponsibility and that why his hands are tied to avoid conflict of interests.