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Malawi

Forty years of uninterrupted peace

Malawi, popularly known as the Warm Heart of Africa, has enjoyed peace and political stability during its 40 years of Independence when some of its neighbours have witnessed bloody civil wars.
Charles Banda

While most Malawians continue to languish in poverty in their country, which has no precious natural resources, nationals of this tiny Southern African nation smile at one achievement - the atmosphere of peace and tranquility that has prevailed over the past four decades.
Newly elected Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika has vowed to ensure that his country remains the land of peace, law and order just as was the case with his predecessors.
Mutharika’s immediate predecessor is Bakili Muluzi who ruled Malawi for two-five year terms of office but miserably failed to change the Constitution so that he could stand for the third term.
Muluzi is highly regarded as a leader whose administration plundered Malawi’s wealth through corruption, graft and reckless financial management. Strangely during his leadership of economic plunder, Malawians never rebelled against him and the country never degenerated into war.
Just three months after taking over power, the new administration has already started pursuing, arresting and prosecuting fat corrupt cats, who swindled millions of dollars during Muluzi regime.
Yet, Malawi remains as calm as the waters in the lake that bears its name. Before Muluzi ascended to power in 1994, Malawi was ruled by one of the worst dictators on the soil of Africa, Dr Kamuzu Banda who eliminated his opponents through detentions, forced exiles and executions.
During all the 30 years of Banda’s autocracy, Malawi remained peaceful while just in the neighbouring Mozambique millions of people were being slaughtered during the civil war between the ruling Frelimo Party and the rebel group Renamo.
But why has Malawi remained peaceful when it was ruled by one of the African tyrants?
The opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) attributes the prevailing peace in Malawi to the foundations of peace laid by the country’s first president, Banda.
MCP vice president Nicholas Dausi says although “most people brand Banda as an autocrat, despot dictator and tyrant, the truth on the ground is that his policies are the genuine foundations of peace in the country.”
During Dr Banda’s 30 years of rule, he compelled every Malawian to abide by what was called the four cornerstones of the nations namely Unity, Loyalty, Obedience and Discipline.
Dausi also says that the policies that Dr Banda’s regime enforced such the use of one language, Chichewa as a national language united Malawians of differenttribes and ethnic backgrounds.
“Government policies compelled people to identify themselves as Malawians first instead of identifying themselves with their tribes or regions,” he said.
Dausi further says that the one party system of government that Malawi adopted soon after attending its independence made Malawians to be united and hence remain peaceful as every individual identified himself with one political party.“We were just like one big family,” says Dausi who was a press aide to Dr Banda.
University of Malawi political scientist Boniface Dulani attributed the peace that has prevailed in this tiny Southern Africa nation of 12 million people to the docile nature of Malawians. “Hate it or not, Malawians are docile by nature. They are a peace loving people and do not yearn for conflict,” said Dulani.
He says the docility of Malawians make them to accept the outcome of anything including elections, hence solidifying the prevailing peace.
But Sangwani Mwafulirwa a journalist working with The Daily Times of Malawi has a different reason. He argues that poverty and lack of precious natural resources such as minerals is the secret behind the much touted peace in the warm heart of Africa. “It is not a question of docility or being peaceful by nature, the truth of the matter is that there is really nothing that we can fight for here in Malawi,” he says adding: “In a country where there are no minerals, oil and timber products, what can people fight for? Infertile soil?”
But Dausi shoots down this statement by citing examples of such countries as Rwanda, Cambodia and Nepal, where there are no minerals and oil yet people have been involved in some of the worst bloody wars. “It is not just a matter of minerals and oil, ethnicism, political and religious difference as some factors behind outbreaks of cruel wars in some parts of the world,” he says.
And Dulani says it is entirely wrong to blame wars on precious stones such as diamonds. “It is a big mistake to conclude that we have wars because of precious stones such as diamonds”. He said the raging armed conflict in many parts of Africa despite the 2000 Kimberley Process Diamond Certification Scheme is a prognostication that there are many factors that lead to armed conflicts than precious stones.
The scheme was launched to prevent illicitly mined diamonds being blamed for bankrolling vicious military coups and civil wars in Africa. Governments and companies in more than 40 countries involved in the production, transformation importation or exportation of diamonds agreed to take part in the program.
But Mwafulirwa insists that diamond in Africa remains the main financier of wars. For instance, diamond has been blamed for financing the 27-year Angolan war. He also cited Central African Republic - the world's fifth most important diamond producer, which has been afflicted with military rebellions and coup attempts since 1996 as another example.
Mwafulirwa said the same has been the case with other diamond producing nations such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Democratic Republic of Congo.
And one of Malawi’s leading human rights activists Rogers Newa said that the dictatorship entrenched in Malawi for 30 years of Dr Banda’s rule contributed tothe current state of peace and tranquility prevailing in Malawi. “The dark days of dictatorship tamed Malawians to become docile people. It also killed over-ambitiousness and the spirit of hunger for power. The fact that most Malawians are not power hungry has contributed to the current peace,” he says.

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