The 49th Independence Celebration, Malawians in Diaspora and the Road to 2014 Election

Is there anything to Celebrate About?

Since 1964, irrespective of the party in power, Malawians pay tribute to 6th July referring to it as the day when we were liberated from the thraldom of British rule.  Many have asked questions to whether there is anything to celebrate about or not. Others have said the country has not witnessed any recognisable development attributing to celebration. Others have said it is better to use the money spent for such celebrations for development projects to improve Malawi. Mmm! mmm! Sounds constructive questions and yet debatable. Let’s go back a bit to see if we can have something to merit our independence celebrations. Nyasaland was established in 1907 by King Edward II who ruled it from 1907 to 1953. It became part of Central African Federation in 1953 which went up to 1963 during Queen Elizabeth II’s rule. It was one of British Overseas Management and Administration (BOMA). It partially attained independence in 1963 with Kamuzu becoming the prime minister. On July 6, 1964, Nyasaland attained full independence from British rule. Nyasaland’s history was marked by massive loss of African communal lands in the early colonial period and the negative attitude of colonial administration to African aspiration. It was during British rule when Nyasaland (now Malawi) lost much of its land to its neighbours which we are now crying to be a small country when our neighbouring countries are vast. Maravi was a vast Kingdom stretching from part of now Zambia Chipata to part of Mozambique and Tanzania Mbeya. We were given total control over Lake Nyasa but lost more land, which we are today crying about with the claim of part of Lake Malawi known as Lake Nyasa on Tanzanian side fearing the country will become so small since it is unlikely that Tanzania can give back part of the land which belonged to Nyasaland, now Malawi in exchange of part of the Lake.

The Nyasaland anthem sung “God save the queen”. Nyasaland was just as a state to United Kingdom whose boss was a governor. William Henry Manning, Geoffrey Francis Taylor Colby, Glyn Smallwood Jones and Harry Johnston were some of the governors to Nyasaland.

The truth is that Nyasaland brooked the British rule with our fathers forced to pay tributes (taxes) to develop United Kingdom despite their pathetic status. I don’t get miffed when I see many Malawians going to UK today because it is partially their home since we took part in developing it while Nyasaland was unheeded. It’s unfortunate that UK, is now putting many strings to Malawians going there. During 10 years of Central African Federation {Northeren Rhodesia (Zambia), Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (Malawi}, Nyasaland was the deprived one because the British were not interested in developing it but as a home for labour importation. Many “Nyasalanders” against their wish were taken to Sosibere in Southern Rhodesia for labour in plantations and mines. You know Zimbabwe has a lot of gold and bauxite and Zambia has quality copper and Nyasaland only had land but no tangible minerals. This is why it was left behind in development because people were taken to Zambia and Zimbabwe (Federation Capital) for labour. Sorry Nyasaland! In reality, apart from the grants that Britain gives Malawi, it is supposed to compensate Malawi for depriving it when it comes to development and human rights. We can push for that just as our friends in Kenya have and the Mau mau warriors have been successfully compensated by the British.

Like I said, to the British, Nyasaland was for labour and not development and that is why in 56 years of their rule, nothing tactual happened to Nyasaland. When Kamuzu Banda took over leadership in 1963/4, there were only two secondary schools, two tar mark roads one from Zomba, the then Capital City to Chileka airport, two hospitals and one airport just to mention few things ascribing to British miserable administration to Nyasaland. Since 1964, do we have something to celebrate about? Comparing 56 years of British rule from 1907 to 1963 to Malawians’ administration from 1963 to 2013, my answer is “YES”! Those who were born during Kamuzu’s rule from 1963 to 1994 would agree with me that Kamuzu took this country from a bush land to what we know it today. During 31 years of Kamuzu’s rule many hospitals, primary schools, secondary schools, university, roads, banks, post offices, another international airport in Lilongwe, Kamuzu palace, many colleges, Sanjika palace, capital hill, radio station ADMARKs many government offices in different districts, and many more that we can not finish to count were built. Despite his dictatorship rule, Kamuzu had Malawi at heart. Bakili Muluzi also did his part within 10 years such as Mzuzu University, some secondary schools, primary schools, colleges and roads were constructed during his time, radio 2 and TV Malawi just to mention a few also. People became free to buy and sell, unlike Kamuzu’s time when one was not allowed to buy a car surpassing that of Kamuzu Banda and many questions were being asked as to where one got money to buy a certain type of a car. This decelerated development to some extent because it instilled fear to Malawians, suppressing innovative ideas. The government was very rich while people were very poor. Within 8 years, Bingu did a recommendable job such as New Parliament building, five star hotel in Lilongwe, fertiliser subsidy programme, Malawi University of Science and Technology in Thyolo, improved road network, greenbelt initiative, retarded Nsanje inland port just to mention a few also. All these presidents had their negative side of their rule but that is not my purpose of this writing. When you compare what British did in 56 years and what our presidents have done in 49 years, indeed, we have something to celebrate about. Let us give credit where it is deserved, not only pointing wrong things. Nyasaland was left so much behind than other countries which were colonised by the same Britain; we are trying our best anyway.

What disappoints me and many Malawians is that, with the grants we have been receiving in these years, we would have done much better but selfishness of our leaders has left us still trailing behind our neighbouring countries in development. We have hospitals without medicines, schools without enough teachers and teaching materials, ADMARKs without maize colleges and universities without enough lecturers and materials, just one television station, just two highway roads, no prestigious stadium, just four organised universities, many job seekers than job creators and many others. Indeed, this is something to rue as to whether we should celebrate the independence or not. We are independent from British rule (except neo-colonialism through despicable aid strings) but not from poverty yet.

Independence Celebration by Malawians in Diaspora and the Road to 2014 Election

The 49th Malawi Independence Celebration also took place in other countries. There are many Malawians in Diaspora who may be over 2million. In Kenya, the deputy High Commissioner, Brigadier General Marcel R. D. Chirwa during independence celebration by Malawians living in Kenya told me that there are more than 150 adult Malawians living there. This number was only for those who avail themselves during celebrations but there are many others who are by themselves who may surmount this number. The number did not include children and students studying there.

In Kenya the celebration was marked with the opening speech from the deputy high commissioner of which Malawi Government was appreciated for bringing back the embassy to Kenya which was closed some ten years ago. There was Chintali and gulewankulu dances, poetry by Malawian students studying at Catholic University of Eastern Africa, presentation from Chrissie Kamthuzi and of course “shallowship” (eating and drinking) which included cake sharing. The other notable Malawians outside Malawi who celebrated the 49th Independence Day are those from UK (Manchester) and USA.You would also agree with me that, there are so many Malawians in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, USA, and other countries. When we talk about developing our country, these people are no excuse. Face-book desk was created for contacts by Malawians in Diaspora to contribute to development. President Joyce Banda has on several occasions urged Malawians living abroad to put Malawi at heart by contributing to its development projects which others are already doing now. My concern is that these people should not only be needed on development but also on decision making and the major one is through election. What has Malawi Electoral Commission put in place to make sure that these millions of Malawians take part in the forthcoming election? We have embassies where Malawians can go to register and vote. These people should not be left out because whatever happens to Malawi affects them also. Let them take part in choosing the leader whom they think would develop Malawi.  If voting in embassies may be difficult due to financial constraints, the world has developed technologically. These people can go and register in these embassies using their passports and phone numbers. In that way they can vote on-line using the phone number they registered buy entering Electoral Commission registration number, passport number and presidential candidate name so that no one votes twice. In this case, I mean Malawians in Diaspora can take part on presidential vote in the forthcoming election through on-line. Let us not discount these votes.

During the 49th anniversary celebration in Kenya, Chrissie Kamthuzi sung a song “Mukhale Woyamba Mulungu pa moyo wanga”. Indeed, let’s put God number one if we want our country to develop. If God is our number one, there shall be no amassing of funds by anyone.

Malawians in Malawi and outside, all are Malawians, let us develop Malawi

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