Malawi debate on Federal State Vs Unitary State

Advantages of a federal state compared with a unitary state: Distribution of power: Distribution of power ensures that there are checks and balances, helping to prevent abuse of power.

Kenani: His views

Kenani: His views

More democracy: Each citizen has two opportunities to exercise the most fundamental democratic right, namely the right to vote; in a federation, elections are held both for the national parliament and for the parliaments of the individual member states.

Leadership opportunities: Political parties have more opportunities to hold power and competition between parties is encouraged, as they can exercise political responsibility in the individual member states even if they are in the minority nationally.

This gives parties an opportunity to test and prove their capacity for leadership by offering them a chance to demonstrate how they perform once elected. Citizen-oriented action: Citizens enjoy more rapid access to the public authorities.

It is easier for them to contact politicians and the public authorities than in a unitary state with a remote and anonymous centre (Ma MP as we speak anachoka kumudzi akukhala mu Lilongwe, and will remember their electorate after 5 years). Competition: The states that make up a federation are always competing with one another, making them more vital. Diversity: The division of the country into federal states guarantees that many economic, political and cultural centres develop.

This provides a more favourable environment to preserve and develop specific regional, historical, economic and cultural features. Disadvantages of a federal state compared with a unitary state:

Lack of uniformity: The federal states’ autonomy necessarily means there are differences between the states. Each state has its own policies, e.g. education.

 This can result in some difficulties, for instance, for school children if a family moves from one federal state to another.

Complicated: As decisions are taken in many different centres in the Federal Republic, and power is shared between the Federation and the individual state, it is essential that the various tiers of government co-operate and show consideration for each other. The different bodies that hold power exercise mutual oversight and function in a checks-and- balances system.

This interweaving of responsibility is complex and sometimes hard for citizens to understand. Time-consuming: The parliaments, governments and administrations of the Federation and the federal states have to wait for initiatives, decisions or consent from each other and engage in lengthy negotiations in order to arrive at joint solutions.

This can be a time-consuming process. Costly: Running individual parliaments, governments and administrations in the Federation and the individual state is considered, on the whole, to be more expensive than maintaining the corresponding bodies in a unitary state.

So there. My choice? No to federalism. It’s too costly, time-consuming and there is no guarantee that those we will put in power at state level in a federal system will not be thieves, the kind of thieves we currently elect at national level.

There will therefore be double-dipping: the president and his people stealing at national level while the governor and his people steal at federal level. We don’t have resources to finance such extravagance.

  • The author is a Malawian writer , poet , award winning short story writer and an accountant.
Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :

Please share this Article if you like Email This Post Email This Post

More From the World

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Francis kamanga

the writer seems to like shortcuts that’s why Malawi is facing these problems.if federal is what he has explained interns of time why then should you rash doing things.wait for all the processes to be done. we don’t say in a federal systems corruption won’t. be there but it’s easy for someone to held accountable this includes a president.

Optic Computer
I have read the causes of all political changes in most influential civilisations: problems that did not exist before appear suddenly or gradually. Usually the leaders or the ruled chose alternative political idealogy to enjoy happiness. Oftentimes, when leaders make the choice, it is to enjoy despotism and absolute power; when the ruled make choice, it is for the sake of enjoy liberty. In Malawi, for instance, dictatorship was Kamuzu’s creation, while democracy was the people’s choice. The federation of Nyasaland and Rhodesia was the colonialists making, so that they could enjoy our sweat. I believe that this federation is… Read more »
Are we really going to stop trying something new for fear of our weaknesses? Its funny to me for this article and arguments to becoming from Stanley Kenani.Fear has never helped in your life or has it Mr Kenani? The only problem you have hilighted in your article is that of thieves and liars.As we speak,these liars and thieves are too many and too manipulative and too clever of us to deal with;some of them are too connected to be dealt with.But may be if they were divided into smaller groups (federelism) they could be crushed.May be if they were… Read more »
Pita Munthalikha

am looking at the numbrr of comments against the article…so many. i dont think all if them hate Onjezani….actually some mentiom that they admire his literally skills. i think this artile was simply no well researched on


The intensity of the negative comments about the article may have resulted from the attitude of ‘am-the-one-that’s-right’ or the ‘my-way-is-the-only-way’. This attitude sadly, has been embraced by almost all who are for federation. They just dont want to hear anyone saying to the contrary. Really sad. Otherwise, the writer has tried to compare and contrast both systems and made his choice. What’s wrong with that?

I respect Kenani’ s opinion and he has tried to balance the argument however I would like to see him analyse the advantages and disadvantages of a unitary state. Lots of people who criticize federalism have never listed down the benefits of the current system. Frankly speaking there are lots of disadvantages as far as I am concerned. Lets face it, any system which allows the Head of State to use public resources and facilitate the construction of a public university on his private estate so that he and his descendants should be earning land rents since time immemorial should… Read more »
Thitherward Wendo
Dear JohnM You write as though you believe that there are only two choices for Malawians: the present situation or federalism. If your car breaks down, you don’t rush out and buy a new one (unless you are very, very rich). You find out what’s wrong with it, and you fix it. We all know what’s wrong with our political system (our politicians are a bunch of liars and thieves), and we all know what needs to be done about it (the liars and thieves need to be identified and punished). (Okay, we also need a change of national mindset… Read more »
Kenani, Who told you that democracy is cheap? By nature democracy is not cheap but costly. That reasoning that multi-party democracy was costly.time consuming.complicated and tantamount to war and conflict was used also by the previous one party state diehards.Today the diehards for unitary state like Kenani are using the same argument against the federal democracy in malawi. The truth is that any system of government in the world has its own advantages and disadvantages. But the advantages for federal democracy outweigh those advantages for a unitary democracy in malawi. Even the major churches such as the catholic and anglican… Read more »
Matthew Admire

l am Matthew Admire Gatsi aged 30 years from the Republic of Zimbabwe, from Jeranyama village chief Negomo Chiweshe, Mazowe district Mashonaland Central. l am looking for my sister Joice aka Batsirai Mubhawa who left Zimbabwe sometime in 1989 after the death of her father who was working as a tailor. I got information to the effect that she was enrolled at Stella Marris Girls High in Blantyre district and she was also staying in Chigwirizo Township. Anyone with information you can contact me on email address: [email protected]/+263773326020.

John Frum
There appear to be two main types of people who are proponents of federalism. The first type is essentially dishonest and regards federation as a kind of political Ponzi scheme that will attract ‘investors’ from among the gullible donors. (Dream on.) The others appear to be latter-day cargo-cultists. Lacking knowledge and understanding of the socio-economic and geo-political processes that have resulted in the current global distribution of power, powerlessness, wealth and poverty, these people hope to create power and wealth for themselves by replicating one of the circumstances associated with the power and wealth of nations like the United States,… Read more »
Che Sululu

Malawi better bee a federal state. lets not focus on regions but the focus should be on the benefits of the act.

John Frum

If you want to know more about John Frum, you’ll find me in Wikipedia, not on Facebook.


Iweyo ndi accountant weniweni withnACCA? CIMA? I completely doubt what you are analysing is so childish and doubt if you have been to any meaningful university. Accountant analysis can’t be like this iwe ndiwa English! Ulibenso political science in you. Real stupid guy.

Kenan You know completely Nothing as you pretend to that’s all I can say about you.

vyazunguya Tukombo

An empty tin. 50yrs in unitary state we r ranguishing at the base of poverty in the world.we need to change the status quo.

More From Nyasatimes