Friday, May 7
We pass the brand new Chinese-built parliament building due for completion any time soon. It is rather reminiscent of the kinds of impressive but rather monstrous constructions that you find in Astana, Kazakhstan. Lilongwe itself resembles a giant, slightly unkempt park or wood with embassies, lodges, residential compounds, banks and NGOs. From the capital’s rooftops huge, oddly-shaped mountains,
that puts one in mind of Ayres Rock, soar out of the almost flat horizon.
At 10am, Malawi’s lone state television channel, MNC, the country’s leading newspapers (The Nation and the Malawi Daily Times) and the top independent radio channel, Zodiac, arrive for a press conference arranged by the Lilongwe UNHCR and run by Bjorn and I.
Bjorn is a very good public speaker. All those present seem to enjoy the presentation and by the end of it we have appeared on Malawian State TV in front of 4 million, and another significant share of the country’s 14 million population will have heard our message through the papers and radio.
What else can I tell you about Lilongwe? The country has been independent since 1964. An obvious British-influence still remains. In 1989 it was home to more refugees than anywhere else on earth: 1.2 million were guests of the Malawian government as a result of the civil war in Mozambique at that time.
Supermarket prices here are absurd - often 2-3 times the prices of goods in the UK. The biggest bank note in general circulation is the 5000 kwacha, worth slightly more than 2 pounds.
After the press conference and several hours of blogging and press communication to Europe and South Africa we return home to Kuka Lodge for an evening of home comforts. The excellent local support of the UNHCR has enabled us to make the most of our visit to Lilongwe.