We Might Be Sitting on a Civil War

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We just crowned the new president of Malawi, although not new at all. His Excellency Prof. Arthur Peter Matharika regained his job as the president of the country, with HE Everton Chimulilenji becoming the new Vice President. However, since the 21st of May, when Malawians lined up in different polling stations to vote and decide their future for the next 5 years, cries were made of the rigging of votes that was happening. Till now, it is unclear whether APM won legitimately or by claiming favors. As much as I would have so much fun breaking down the comedic moments of the elections, I wrote this for a whole different reason.

During the proceedings of the elections, violence erupted in most central and northern regions of the country. What mostly caught my attention was what happened in Dowa and Mponela, where it was claimed that people from the two districts were chasing away those from the southern region. I realized that until now, Malawi has failed to solve issues of Tribalism, Nepotism and Regionalism.

During the era of late Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, he had introduced a policy which allowed teachers to work in districts that they came from. This negatively affected those from the north who mostly had jobs in the central and southern regions of the country. So did the quota system.

In 1993, the referendum was successful which saw the introduction of democracy and multi-party politics. In 1994, Dr. Bakili Muluzi would emerge the first president in a democratic Malawi. However, I remember my grandmother telling me that the saying then was “Boma lapita kwa Yao.”

In 2004, when the late Dr.Bingu wa Mutharika won the presidential race, again we chanted “Boma lapita kwa a Lhomwe.” When his brother and incumbent president won in 2014, we said again “Boma lili m’manja mwa a Lhomwe.” This year, right now, we have chanted the same thing again.

In a perfect world, those would be sentiments that would be said and forgotten, however, in our world, it reflects on one thing:

Malawi is sitting on a time bomb which will one day bring out the evils of tribalism, nepotism and regionalism.

What that means is that we are sitting on a ticking time bomb for a Civil War.

During the elections, I noted that the unofficial results that were being broadcasted by the media and the commentary hinted at the following:

  • APM had large numbers in the southern region due to DPP belonging to the Lhomwes
  • Chakwera had large numbers in the central region due to MCP belonging to Chewas
  • Chilima had large numbers in Ntcheu due to him belonging to the Ngoni tribe
  • Muluzi had significant numbers in the eastern region due to UDF belonging to the Yaos
  • So who owns the Northern region? Chisi is from the North, why did he not pull large numbers there?

All this points that Malawi votes, not by the policies that the parties propose, we vote based on where one comes from, his tribe, his region and if we are going to be able to benefit from him.

Late last year, when I volunteered at the Sand Music Festival, I made friends with a guy who learns at Chanco and happens to be Lhomwe. A very talented young man, who will go far in life. However, what made me sad was to hear that the current business opportunities with the DPP government are only based on the fact that they all come from the same tribal belt.

We keep ignoring all the signs of tribalism or regionalism. Question is, with indicators like those in Dowa and Mponela, how much more do we have before they burst?

Our leaders have successfully been able to lead Malawi based on tribalism, nepotism and regionalism. They have manipulated the masses into voting for them based on their loyalty to their tribes and their culture. They have failed to unify and make Malawians understand that before their tribes, they are first Malawians who are supposed to move with one motive.

How long will we sit on this problem as a nation? Is it not enough already?

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