Zambia President Michael Sata says he has forgiven Malawi President Bingu Wa Mutharika following a diplomatic row that has soured relations between the two neighboring countries.
Mr. Sata?s spokesman, George Chellah said the Zambian leader made his decision following a closed door meeting with former Malawi President Bakili Muluzi in the capital, Lusaka.
Chellah said President Sata wants to restore warm relations with Malawi for the betterment of their peoples.
?Malawi and Zambia are bigger than Michael Sata and Bingu Wa Mutharika therefore he [Mr. Sata] says that we should let bygones be bygones,? continued Chellah. ?Indications are that anytime from now, President Sata can freely travel to Malawi and even President Bingu Wa Mutharika can as well come to Zambia.?
Chellah expects Sata?s decision to pave a new ?chapter? in strengthened relations with neighboring Malawi.
There has been an ongoing diplomatic spat between Malawi and Zambia. Since the election of Zambia President Sata, analysts say, relations between Lusaka and Lilongwe seem to have deteriorated.
As an opposition leader, Mr. Sata was deported from Malawi in 2006 by the Mutharika government after visiting former Malawian President Bakili Muluzi. Since coming to power in elections last year, President Sata has demanded an apology from the Malawi government; Lilongwe has refused.
Mr. Sata snubbed Mr. Mutharika by refusing to invite him to Zambia?s independence anniversary celebrations. He instead invited Malawi Vice President Joyce Banda and former President Bakili Muluzi, both of whom oppose Mr. Mutharika.
Chellah denied the recent acrid relations between Lusaka and Lilongwe are irreparable.
?Since the problems were not so deep, it will be much easier for the relationship that existed before to be salvaged, and that is what President Sata has embarked on,? said Chellah. ?[Mr. Sata] has to be praised for that [effort], because very few people within the region expected that. But, being the statesman that he is, he decided to look into the interests of both countries as well as the region as a whole.?
Former Malawi President Muluzi is scheduled to officially inform the Malawi government of Sata?s decision.
Chellah expressed confidence in subsequent shared collaboration between the two southern African countries.
?President Sata looks forward to new areas of cooperation hence the decision that he made. And I think the personal relations between the two should not affect the two nations who have lived in mutual cooperation and peace for a long time. The president reached out in the interest of both countries and this is exactly what he has done,? said Chellah.