Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Goodall Gondwe, has said Malawi government will not press for compensation from its former colonial master the Britain to thousands of Malawians who were tortured during an anti-colonial uprising late 1950s as demanded by some sections of the society.
Gondwe made the statement Thursday after he presided over the commemoration of Martyrs Day in Nkhata Bay.
March 3 is commemorated every year as a national holiday in Malawi, honouring the political heroes who gave up their lives in the struggle for independence from British colonialism.
It was on this day when the British declared a state-of-emergency and arrested prominent Malawian Nationalists and other dissidents. Fury over the arrest of these resistance leaders precipitated into the death of 31 demonstrators in Nkhata Bay district, 51 in the country and detention of over 1, 300.
About two years ago, the people of Nkhata Bay through Ralph Mhone the legislator for Nkhata-bay Central constituency and also a law expert asked the government of Malawi to press Britain to compensate families of individuals who were killed by the British forces on 3rd March, 1959 during the state-of emergency.
“It’s high time Malawi should seek compensation from Britain because out martyrs died because they were fighting for freedom which we enjoy today. They were not criminals,” Mhone said.
Mhone said Malawi is likely to get the compensation as was the case in Kenya where Britain has compensated thousands of people whose families were killed during the British orchestrated killings in the 1950s.
As many as 90,000 Kenyans were killed or tortured and 160,000 more were forced into concentration camps during eight years of Mau Mau mayhem and bloodshed during the 1950s.
Britain announced an out-of-court settlement of about $30.5m which was split between 5,200 victims, leaving about $4,100 per claimant in a country where the average person earns just $821 a year.
But Gondwe said in Kenya the case of Mau Mau was pursued by private lawyers.
“Ralph Mhone, because he started pursuing the issue, can just team up with other lawyers [to continue with it] but not [Malawi] government pursuing the issue of compensation,” said Gondwe, adding government was ready only to assist if the aggrieved parties want assistance.
In his remarks on the compensation issue, Mhone disclosed that he has already started working on it.
“Currently, I’m doing investigations on the issue and we have already contacted our friends from Kenya who assisted the MauMau warriors and they are ready to help,” he said.
However, Mhone said he needs to visit the archives office in the country’s old capital, Zomba, to look for the correspondences between the colonial administrators and the London officials.
“We want to find out who authorized the soldiers from South Africa and Rhodesia to come to Malawi and massacre our beloved people?” said the Nkhata Bay Central legislator.
Making a landmark apology before Britain’s parliament, Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed regret over “abhorrent violations of human dignity” that took place more than half a century ago.
Malawi’s former President Bingu wa Mutharika once asked the country’s law experts to investigate whether Britain compensated Malawi soldiers who fought in the two world wars. –Additional reporting by Aliko Munde, ManaFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :