Avoid Tribalism At All Cost To Prevent Tribalism

Since I was born, I have known Malawi as a peaceful country with united people. The founding president made sure that the country is one though there were some instances in which other tribes such as Tumbukas complained about his administration. Tumbukas didn’t like the idea that teachers should work from their districts of origin because that sounded like blackballing them from accessing some cities such as Lilongwe and Blantyre where most jobs are found which was to some extent sensible though the policy was not meant for Tumbukas only. The order about teachers working from their districts of origin didn’t survive because it was to some extent bringing divisions.

Since 1964, Malawi has been one until 1994 when multiparty came, some sense of divisions started emerging though not serious. I am writing this noting that, there are some people in our country who are talking about the existence of regionalism or tribalism. Tribalism is not a good thing to just talk about childishly. In fact it’s people who want to see tribalism in Malawi who are talking more about it. In actual sense there is no such a thing like tribalism or regionalism in Malawi as compared to other countries which have experienced it on a serious note.

In 1994, Rwanda suffered serious tribalism which led to deadly genocide claiming thousands of lives. There are only two tribes in Rwanda Tutsi and Hutu but great enemies to the point that Tutsis killed many Hutus and also called them cockroaches.

The killing was that serious that, dead bodies were carried on Lorries to be buried in mass graves. In Burundi, the similar incidence happened. In Uganda, there is one tribe which has been ruling for a long time and this has not gone well with other tribes, but at least there is peace. In Kenya, tribalism led to post-election violence in 2007/8 claiming thousands of lives also. These are few examples of countries where tribalism is real.

Through reading different comments on online media and hearing from other people, I see that some people want to portray Malawi as a country where tribalism is sedate which is not. It is very sad that this may elicit tribalism which has not been the case in Malawi. Now that we are running towards 2014 general election, I would like to condemn these claims in serious standing.

These claims are unacceptable and intending to destroy peace, unity and divert people’s attention from development.

My observation is that there are some people who are portraying that there is enmity between the Chewas and the Tumbukas which I don’t believe. In reality these are the tribes which are very close to each other, not because of sharing regional boundary but through intermarriages. For you to believe that there is no tribalism in Malawi is that, you can’t tell one’s tribe by surname as it is with other countries. Chewas and Tumbukas have intermarried so much than other tribes so that there are more Bandas in Tumbuka community. Originally, the clan name Banda belonged to Chewas only. We also have the Phiris in Tumbuka, Tonga and other communities, because of intermarriages. The clan names Banda, Phiri, Mwale and Chisale belonged to Chewas only but not any longer. History tells us that, Banda was an administrative clan, Phiri was a chieftainship clan and Mwale was a military clan. Chisale was more of the Mwales. There were no such names in Tumbuka tribe before. Tumbuka’s common clan names are; Nyirenda, Nyirongo, Mkandawire, Gondwe Chamvula and others. Tumbukas share clan names with Tongas also. It is very unfortunate to portray tribes which have intermarried so much as enemies. How do you complement the two?

Some Tumbukas and Chewas who are not aware of this fact portray that there is enmity between them. Such Tumbukas call Chewas “anyau osapita kusukulu” and such Chewas call Tumbukas mockingly “mbwenumbwenu”.

Note that Hastings Kamuzu Banda did not endorse John Tembo the fellow Chewa for MCP leadership; instead he opted for a Sena, Gwanda Chakuwamba. When multiparty came, Justine Malewezi a Chewa was Bakili Mulizi’s Vice President, a Yao. In 2004, Cassim Chilumpha a “Chewa” was Bingu’s running mate, a Lomwe. In 2009 Joyce Banda a Yao, was Bingu’s running mate. Now, Joyce Banda’s Vice president is Khumbo Kachali, a Ngoni. These are few examples to show that, there is no tribalism in Malawi. I was chocked that, as Kenya was close to their 2013 general election, people could determine which party will win based on tribal affiliation. They could add the votes before election. Those belonging to Jubilee coalition could say, “Kikuyu such millions plus Kalenjini such millions plus Merus such millions, hah, we will win the election”, which really happened. This is tribalism at its best which is not the case in Malawi.  For the past four general elections we have had, it is a lie to say that people voted on tribal lines. In a recent example, Bingu scooped votes from central region of Dedza, Nchinsi, Kasungu, Mchinji, Dowa and even Lilongwe where Chewas are more and believed to be MCP’s stronghold. To some extent, Bingu started bringing tribalism by appointing more Lomwe’s in public office at the expense of others which was not good. One National News Paper showed a pie chart which showed more than half of it in favour of Lomwes. However, it is also possible that the report was prejudiced.

In 1994, irrespective of tribes, religions and regions, all voted for Bakili Muluzi a Yao overwhelmingly. If you look at Kamuzu’s administration, you notice that even Chewas suffered. If Kamuzu (a Chewa) was tribal, then the Chewas could have not liked change of administration to one party system because they would be receiving favours from Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda. The last time I checked, the Chewas constituted over 60 per cent of Malawi’s population and 90 per cent of the Central Region’s population. If there was tribalism in Malawi, the Chewas could have not lost power even during the multiparty democracy. The same big number of Chewas voted out Kamuzu Banda regardless of him being their tribe-mate.

Coming to religions, Christians constitute over 75 per cent and Muslims 20 per cent, 5 per cent others. If Malawi was religionalitic, Bakili Muluzi, a Muslim could have not been the best choice for Malawians in 1994 election. Coming to regionalism, I also deny its existence in Malawi. When leaving power, Kamuzu Banda endorsed Gwanda Chakuamba from the South, Bakili took Justine Malewezi and Cussim Chilumpha from the Central Region as his vice presidents, the same between Bingu and Cassim Chilumpha. Now, Joyce Banda who is from the South has her vice from the North.

However, the fact that each party has a stronghold can not be overlooked. That is very true. This is because the founder of a particular party is first known by people from where he comes from. This is normal but not regionalism. However, you can recall that in 2009 election, DPP won many seats in the Northern region. If Northerners were tribalistic, DPP could have not overtaken AFORD. Malawians vote on policy and political lines, not tribe, region and religion.

So please, my fellow Malawians, let’s not provoke regionalism or tribalism for we will not like to live in our own country when it comes, let’s work towards development. People should be reasonable and sensitive enough when talking about tribes so as not to stair tribalism in our mother land. Let’s stop talking about Tribalism to prevent tribalism. Let us have one tribe “Malawi tribe”. IF YOU DON’T HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY, IT IS BETTER TO KEEP QUIET OTHER THAN PROVOKING TRIBALISM!

 May God bless Malawi!

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