By Geoffrey Mchinanguwo Gondwe
On 24th May 1963, Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah made a speech at the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) now African Union (AU) to convince his colleagues to form a continental union. One of the striking points in Nkrumah’s speech was his appeal to fellow African leaders not to repeat mistakes made by the whites in governance.
In the speech Nkrumah stated, “Our people supported us in our fight for independence because they believed that African governments could cure ills of the past in a way which could never be accomplished under colonial rule. If, therefore, now that we are independent, we allow the same conditions to exist that existed in colonial days, all the resentment which overthrew colonialism will be mobilized against us.”
Even though this iconic statement was said before Malawi attained its independence, its impact is immensely evident in the nation’s political spectrum since its inception in 1964. Nkrumah’s words were an attempt by then to remind African leaders not neglect people’s frustrations and expectations. Failing which, the same people who rose against the colonial masters would rise against their African leaders as well.
Before Malawi gained its independence, people in Nyasaland were disgruntled with the white rule. Colonial oppressive policies succeeded only in bringing Africans together with one purpose: To end colonial rule and achieve self-governance. When nationalist personalities like Orton Chirwa, Henry Chipembere, Aleke Banda and Dr Kamuzu Banda emerged, they already had people who were tired with the whites and wanted change. Africans aspired for a government that would treat them as humans. They believed fellow African leaders would not subject them to cruelty as the whites had done since 1891.
When Nyasaland became independent in 1964, Malawians were glad that long at last they would rule themselves. They had huge expectations for a new government that would be run by people from within. However, the happiness did not last long. Whether on purpose or not, the first president, Dr Banda had other ideas. In a quest to consolidate his power, Dr Banda established a government machinery that oppressed its own people. Many Malawians had anticipated that in a new homeland, they would be free from any form of oppression. At this point, their expectations vanished in the air. Their own sons had turned them into captives in their own land.
However, in 1993 a surge of change was on course. The people who had supported Dr Banda in fight for independence, would rise against him. Nkrumah’s warning would come to manifest itself in Malawi. When people’s hope are not met, there comes a time no matter how long it may take, they unite to fight for what they consider right. The euphoria that engulfed Malawians in 1994 when Malawi returned to multi-party democracy surpassed the excitement of 1964. The return of democracy was an event that inspired many people that shackles of poverty will be dashed off and that everyone would live to enjoy the fruit of their effort. So, many moved on with zeal.
The advent of democracy has brought in leaders who make empty promises at the expense of people’s suffering. The multi-party dispensation has raised political leaders who have deliberately tolerated vices like corruption, nepotism, arrogance and abuse of human rights. As a result, the malpractices would provoke people to rise for change. Nkrumah’s call made 57 years ago is still relevant today. Leaders who fail to heed calls of the masses always fall to their own ways.
Evidently, Nkrumah’s words, “…all the resentment which overthrew colonialism will be mobilised against us” would be visible again in Malawi. In 2011, Malawians united to express their dissatisfaction towards the late Prof. Bingu wa Muntharika’s authoritarian style of leadership. And recently, Malawians could not tolerate the Democratic Development Party (DPP) led government which forgot to put people’s needs first. The rest for the DPP is under the mat.
The current change of status quo of the government and political landscape has subsequently brought joy in many people who expect the Tonse Alliance led administration to avoid errors made in the past or else the same people who put them in power will surely rise against them as well.