Last time Mutharika was on commercial flight he travelled to Malta for the Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting (Chogm) but his 27-hour travel was rife with pitfalls such as some of his luggage which contained confidential information and clothing went missing.
The incident of missing luggage was one of the disadvantages of the President travelling using commercial airlines and not a chartered plane or presidential jet.
But in step with the austerity measures, the President decided to board commercial flight on his trip to AU.
A presidential jet that former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika bought in 2009 was in July 2013 controversially bartered off to Africa’s largest privately owned defence and aerospace company, Paramount Group, after president Joyce Banda assumed office.
The barter, which was done to offset a $19 million debt owed to Paramount Group, attracted controversy, with the current government probing whether the sale of the jet was fuelled by kickbacks and corruption.
Commeting on the AU summit, President Mutharika said the AU will have official theme proposed by the Malawi leader : “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth.”
He said: “Since we proposed the theme and was unanimously adopted by the UN, Malawian youth will be a case study.”
Mutharika said this will promote the channeling of investments in youth.
He said: “The Summit in line with the theme we expect the youths to be empowered especially young girls for leadership and civil participation.”
Upon arrival Sunday, at Bole International Airport, President Mutharika was welcomed by First Lady Gertrude Mutharika who has arrived earlier, Foreign Affairs Minister Francis Kasaila, Ambassador of Malawi to Ethiopia Chimango Chirwa, Chief Secretary to Government Llyod Muhala and other AU officials.
Among other engagements, the Malawi leader will attend African Leaders Malaria Alliance and the implementation of the Common Africa position on ending child marriages.
And AU held a first-ever African Youth Conference on Unity and Development from January 22 to 25.
The AU summit is an African debut of sorts for Gambia’s new president Adama Barrow, triumphant from a bruising election that nearly ended in bloodshed after the longtime president Yahyah Jammeh initially refused to vacate the seat he had held for 22 years.
Leaders will make a secret vote to choose their pick for the new head of the African Union commission, after they failed to choose a successor for Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at the last summit six months ago.
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