Of Tribalism and Regionalism in Malawi


Malawi currently is at its toes, waiting eagerly for the presidential election results to be announced. However, as the media keeps flooding social media platforms with unofficial results, it has awoken a devil that was not asleep. Suddenly, we are back to seeing the deep rooted problem that Malawi has as a whole. We have been engulfed with talks about tribalism and regionalism in Malawi.

Many rejoiced today, when unofficial results indicated that the opposition, Tonse Alliance, was leading in the northern region. Suddenly, Twitter was filled with people praising Tumbukas for their splendid choice. However, somewhere along the line, issues of tribalism flooded the timeline. And I was reminded that this is the unfortunate truth of our small country and Africa as a whole.

tribalism and regionalism in Malawi
Day 17: Comment on a trending Current Affairs Topic

To readers who are not aware of Malawi. Malawi has four regions, the northern region which is home to the Tumbuka, Tonga and Nkhonde tribe to mention a few. The central region is home to the Chewa and Ngoni, the eastern region home to the Yao and the southern region home to the Lhomwe and Sena. And those are the divisions that are prevalent.

Malawian politicians have for so long fueled tribalism and regionalism. Constantly reminding people of the lines that divide them regardless of everyone being Malawian. Yet again, tribalism has not spared us this year.

And if I was to be very honest, there is no tribe that would claim to be holier that thou.

Just like we say that racism is an act that people learn, so is tribalism. No one is born with an in-built hate for another tribe, it is learned.

Some of the most common demeaning things that are said about each tribe are the following:

  • Lhomwe people have for so long been said to only be good at being maids or gardeners.
  • Sena people are usually made fun of their language
  • Yao men are mostly called tailors and women perceived to be whores
  • Chewa are made fun of their language and their belief of gule wamkulu
  • Tumbukas are made fun of their heavy language, and their dark skin tone

If you notice, these are things that are demeaning. What is more unfortunate is that every generation is taught of these and will make light jokes of them without thinking much of those behind it.

Like I said before, no tribe is holy. Again, it is unfortunate that politicians are always at the forefront of gaslighting such divisions to their own favor.

For so long, we have thought like this:

  • MCP belongs to the Chewas
  • UDP is for the Yaos
  • DPP is for the Lhomwes

These are the current big political parties in the country. That leaves many tribes without any representation. But it should never be like this.

I like what Saulos Chilima once said

If they ever ask, I am Malawian. I am Ngoni, I am Chewa, I am Tumbuka, I am Lhomwe. I am a Malawian first.

This is how everyone should think. No longer is it a time to police each other on who started tribalism, who is the biggest tribalist etc. The point is to remind each other that we are Malawians first. We are all children of Malawi and should see beyond the lines that divide districts and regions and embrace each other.

And we ought to be the first in line to check the politicians who still fuel such nasty behaviour. It is due to this behaviour that some districts and regions have been denied any kind of developmental works. And the more we fight each other because of tribes, the less work is done.

It is my plea, that each young person reading this does not become one of those that blames those in rural areas for their choice of a candidate. Sure, they might have chosen based on tribal ties. But it is time we leave the blame culture behind and start educating each other.

It is only through education that we remove these problems that have been deep rooted for so long. And time we move forward together as Malawians.

It is time we fiercely fight tribalism and regionalism in Malawi to get a better future, one that incorporates us all as Malawians.

What are your own thoughts on tribalism and regionalism in Malawi or Africa as a whole? I would like to hear them, comment below. Don’t forget to hit the like button too.


3 thoughts on “Of Tribalism and Regionalism in Malawi

  1. In the Shire valley Chikwawa and Nsanje we also have not only Sena but also Mang’anja tribe.

  2. Wow thanks for breaking it down for us.
    Unfortunately tribalism is indeed taught… In Uganda we are also faced with that backlash sometimes people are quick to think of someone according to the tribes it’s sad in that some marriages become a tug just because of tribe. The political scene is way worse.
    I hope we the future generation can break these lines.

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