U.S. assistance to Malawi temporarily is being frozen by the U.S. pending an inquiry into that African nation's alleged governmental role in killing protesters, Reuters today reported. Separately, but specific to Malawi, the Monitor continues to await a governmental response to a potential conflict of interest between a federal official who administers U.S. aid to Malawi and his contractor wife who oversees one such program.
According to a press release from the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) -- a U.S. entity tasked with carrying out certain U.S. development assistance projects:
At the core of an MCC partnership is the expectation that countries maintain a demonstrated commitment to political pluralism, human rights, and the rule of law throughout the life of the program. MCC is deeply concerned by recent events in Malawi and is placing an immediate hold on all program operations in order to review its partnership with Malawi, including whether to recommend to its Board of Directors whether to suspend or terminate its assistance.
MCC signed a five-year, $350 million Compact with the Government of Malawi on April 7, 2011. The Compact is focused on Malawi’s power sector and is expected to benefit nearly 6 million Malawians. By reducing power outages and technical losses, enhancing the sustainability and efficiency of hydropower generation, and improving service to electricity consumers, the Compact is designed to reduce energy costs to enterprises and households; improve productivity in the agriculture, manufacturing and services sectors; and support the preservation and creation of employment opportunities in the economy.
MCC’s operational hold will bring to a halt all ongoing Compact activities during the review.
Unrelated to the above-mentioned MCC energy project, the Monitor earlier this year reported on a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) grant program that pays for the college educations of Malawi citizens -- a project carried out by World Learning, a contractor whose vice president, Carol Jenkins, is the wife of Robert Jenkins, director of the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives (see "Foreigners Get College Paid by U.S. Taxpayers; Wife of Government Official to Manage Tuition Outreach; April 4).
Despite inquiries that the Monitor has made, USAID and World Learning, Mrs. Jenkins' firm, have ignored all communications on the matter. Similarly, Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights Subcommittee (and who also is the elected representative of this writer's congressional district), has not responded to a request to investigate this potential conflict of interest.
It should be noted, however, that a journalist from a major news organization, who for now will remain anonymous, this past week made an inquiry the Monitor about that report.
FOR ADDITIONAL REGIONAL COVERAGE, PLEASE VISIT THE MONITOR'S AFRICA PAGE.