Monday, July 21, 2014


As time progresses, calls for a Federal system of government are growing by day, more so for the past two months albeit with a very coincidental approach.

We are justified to question as to why people are calling for a federal system only after the much divisive elections? Recently, Justice Minister, Samuel Tembenu, labeled those who are propagating these calls as bad losers. 

The minister has a point as the first proponent of such a system were our brothers and sisters from the northern-region based political party, Alliance For Democracy (AFORD).

Yes coincidentally, the calls raised some questions as they were an immediate reaction to election results that sadly showed how as a country we are failing to move away from "ethnic politics"

Even Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President, Lazarus Chakwera, has encouraged exhaustive and extensive debate on the issue than just sweeping it under the carpet.

But wait a minute. Why are these calls mushrooming anyway? 

Surely it is about power and resources, that we cannot deny. I think these are laudable and credible justifications by those itching for Federalism. Nothing wrong with that.

Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe, once said " A normal sensible person will wait for his turn if he is sure that the shares will go round; if not, he might start a scramble"

Other tribes and ethnic groups are also feeling entitled to the control of national resources. Be well reminded that those who control the state have the power to determine 

"who gets rich and who gets poor"

"Who produces what and where"

Who sells what, how and where"

And worse still,

"who suffers from what disease and where they receive their treatment"

Once you have State power, you have the key. No wonder elections have become one event we cannot do without. Everybody wants power and because we still think along tribal lines, then our tribal inclinations make us urge for power within tribal hands.

My underlying question is, "Are people really asking for Federalism as it is or a rotating Presidency? For the fact that these cries are coming at the back of elections, I think people are asking for the latter.

People know that those who have the Presidency can call the shots anytime, anyhow, especially on resources and allocation of development. Does it surprise you how a University which was earmarked for Lilongwe ended up on a personal garden in Thyolo?

In his book "POISONED WELLS, The Dirty Politics of African Oil", Nicholas Shaxson argues that resources (especially minerals, oils and gas) divide citizens against one another.

I agree with Shaxton when I analyse the situation here at home in the wake of vast mineral and oil potential under our own feet. Doesn't it make sense that calls for Federalism are coming first from the North? Isn't that the region where mineral exploitation has taken a huge leap compared to all the regions?

Furthermore, the country's first serious and attractive mine investment Kayerekera Uranium Mine is in Karonga. Despite the closure chances are that it might be reopened when other investors find it fit depending on uranium's prices on world market.

Coincidentally, it is also the Northern part of Lake Malawi might experience oil and gas explorations first after studies proved availability of these up there.

Just as is the case with people of the Niger Delta in Nigeria or inhabitants of Principe Island in Sao Tome en Principe, Malawi's Northerners are getting worried that their region is a bedrock of precious underground commodities yet revenue from these is used to develop other places more than their own.
So, what would be the best solution to this? 

Some three years ago during a public debate at Chancellor College, Peter Mutharika (now President) touched on this pertinent issue of rotating the Presidency among the regions and suggested that Malawi should look into this possibility as a way of building national cohesion.

May be at the rate we are going, rotating the Presidency can be a better option. As Chinua Achebe puts it, for those who think their turn is delaying, a scramble becomes an option.

This line of thinking has been tested and it works. More so, it cuts across many areas of life not only politics. 

Have you ever wondered why even the Football World Cup changed it's format from general to continental bidding? It was all to do with continents who thought their time might not come with the status quo and they simply expression their dissatisfaction louder.

The worst thing current rulers can do is close their ears to these cries, that will only aggravate the problem.

I have no problem who rules Malawi as long as they put the poor majority at the centre of their policies. 

However, if calls for change start filtering through, it is only wise to give an ear.

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