Norway pleads with govt to end university impasse
Norway’s new ambassador to Malawi Asbjorn Eidhammer has urged the government to find a lasting solution to the impasse at the University of Malawi.
“We seriously hope and expect that to continue and trust that the present precarious situation at the universities — which is of concern to academics and ourselves — will receive the attention it deserves,” said Eidhammer.
Eidhammer was speaking on Tuesday evening in Lilongwe during Norway’s Constitution Day, May 17.
He said for a decade, Malawians and Norwegians academics have been working together in agriculture, environment, health and political science and Malawi has become the most important country fund-wise for Norad’s masters degree programme and in the two countries’ universities joint research programmes.
“This cooperation has always taken place in an atmosphere of openness and in academic freedom,” said the diplomat.
Eidhammer also touched on the contentious issue of homosexuality and said tolerance and discrimination should not only be an issue in relation to colour and ethnicity.
“It is equally important for people who are different from the majority. As late as the 1960s homosexual relations were forbidden in Norway, some said it was against our culture or religion. Today it is not much of an issue. Tolerance has again prevailed,” said Eidhammer.
But he said Norway does not seek to impose on anyone any particular view on the civil status of love relations, saying everyone has a right to human dignity and protection in line with the principles of the UN.
None of the Malawi ministers have expressed independent opinion on the academic freedom crisis. If they do, they talk broadly probably in fear.
In his speech, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Stevin Kamwendo did not directly address the concerns raised by Norway.
However, he said the Malawi government is committed to adhering to principles of good governance, democratic ethics, sound macroeconomic management, including public financial management which he said are essential ingredients to socio-economic development and growth.
Kamwendo said Malawi and Norway signed a cooperation agreement in 2008 for the period 2008 to 2012 with a commitment by Norway to provide a minimum allocation of K5 billion per annum of which K1.8 billion is dedicated to budget support annually.
“This has helped in the sustenance of macro-economic performance and the attainment of progress in poverty reduction in Malawi,” said Kamwendo.
In the health and HIV/Aids sector, Norway’s main areas of focus have been on improving child, maternal, sexual and reproductive health supported through the health sector budget support and Banja la Mtsogolo work, said Kamwendo.