Malawi exile returnees Archibald Kapote Mwakasungura and Douglas Miller have launched a book titled “Malawi’s Lost Years: and her forsaken heroes”, a documentation of hidden but now uncovered testimonies of people who suffered abuse and injustice during Kamuzu Banda’s 30 year one-party autocratic rule in Malawi.
The book was launched at Riverside Hotel in Lilongwe at an event hosted by Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and graced by activists, academicians, politicians, journalists, writers, and the families of the victims. The former Speaker of Malawi Parliament Rt. Honourabe Chimunthu Banda was also in attendance as the guest of honour.
The book contains testimonies of over 45 people including those by the former Vice President Justice Malewezi, Khwauli Msiska, late Rose Chibambo, later Willie Chokani, Thengo Maloya, Professor Kings Phiri, Ollen Mwalubunju, Mary Mwale, John Soo Phiri, Tujilane Chizumila (former Ombudsman), Matchipisa Munthali, and Victoria Sibanda.
According to the two authors, the book is an attempt by two people who have been greatly touched, one by virtue of origin and birth, the other by marriage and compassion, to try and rehabilitate the lives of a number of Malawians who suffered the indignity of exile on the one hand, and detention on the other during the 30 year misrule under Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
“The argument about ‘Malawi’s Lost Years’ is not that Malawi in the 30 years stood still. No country ever stays still under nature’s dialectic…People lived their lives and infrastructure projects brought an element of development for some of the population. However, much was lost through the excesses of the misrule and the culture of predation that was implanted during that period and that persists today. Kamuzu Banda established the practice that has become the rule – taking over the reigns of government entitles the rulers to exploit the country and its people for personal gain,” argued Kapote Mwakasungura and Douglas Miller.
The two authors observe, in the book, the concerted attempts by Malawi’s current leadership classes to rehabilitate Kamuzu’s legacy by exorcising the evil of his regime and perpetuating the myths about Banda’s strengths and qualities as a messiah or saviour despite ample evidence of his bloody misrule and tragic consequences which haunt the country today.
“No-one should pretend that Dr. Banda did not know what was going on anywhere, anytime throughout the country. He was famous for micro-managing every aspect of life in Malawi. All party appointments required his approval, and civil service houses for the lowest ranking clerk or nursing attendant were allocated at his wish. Such daily trivia as the headlines in newspapers, gun licenses and expatriate appointments all crossed over this desk. Right into the last years of his deep senility, he may have been used by others, but they very clearly operated along the lines he had drawn”.
Speaking in a key note address, the former Speaker Chimunthu Banda described the two authors as accomplished scholars and commended them for the sacrifice they had made to make sure that the book was finally published.
“Let me congratulate my friend Kapote and Douglas Miller for this great work. The fact that the two have used their personal money to come up with this speaks volumes of their sacrifice. I have read almost the whole book in 2 days, and I can tell you there are some areas where when you read you cannot afford not shedding tears –did these things really happen to our fellow human beings.”
The former speaker then added that the book was important for the current generation in order to guard against the repeat of another “lost years” by learning from the past.
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation executive director Timothy Mtambo saluted the authors and said the Centre was privileged and obliged to host the event considering the fact that some of the touching testimonies and experiences in the book eventually gave birth to a great human rights and governance organization –CHRR- with the objective of jealously guarding against human rights and governance abuses to avoid the repeat of the “lost years”.
“The idea to have CHRR was conceived in exile by a group of dedicated Malawian exile students who included Ollen Mwalubunju, Undule Mwakasungura, Khwauli Msiska, John Soo Phiri, and Grant Sichali who had fled into exile in the 1970s due to the tyrannical rule of Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda and returned at the advent of democracy in Malawi to add value to the noble cause by contributing to the consolidation of democracy and protection of human rights through the establishment of CHRR in 1995.
“The book documents the testimonies of some of these founders. Even one of the author Kapote contributed in the conceptualization of the idea to have CHRR while in exile. It is premised on such that CHRR will not relent in jealously safeguarding our hard-won democracy and avoid the repeat of the “lost years” said Mtambo.
Arcbald Kapote Mwakasungura is a retired and still an active politician. He is the chairman of the Uraha Foundation of Malawi, which oversees the prestigious Cultural and Museum Centre for Karonga.
Kapote was a student activist who fled Malawi for exile in Tanzania in October 1964 when Kamuzu installed his brutal dictatorship. He taught at the Mzumbe Institute of Development Managemetn in Morogoro, now the University of Mzumbe.
In 1974, he together with four Malawians founded the Socialist League of Malawi (LESOMA) and served as its highly respected Secretary- General. In the democratic dispensation in 1992-94 he became a key player as a member of the Transitional National Consultative Council (NCC) and helped to draw up the New Malawi Constitution. Later, he served as High Commissioner to Zimbabwe from 1995 to 1998.
Doug Miller – originally from Ottawa- taught in Malawi from 1968 to 1972 and married his fellow teacher, Nellie Saka, from Kasungu. He was Country Director for Canadian University Service Overseas in Malawi from 1975-76 but fled with his family into exile. There, he became active in LESOMA, the Socialist League of Malawi.
In the early 1990s, Doug and Nellie were deeply involved in the Malawi Action Committee and Canadian Friends of Malawi, advocating and lobbying governments and international organizations to bring about an end to the Banda dictatorship.
In retirement he has been active as Director of Makupo Development Group in Montreal, which supports education, health, water and income generation projects in the Chilanga area near Kasungu.
Doug Miller and Kapote have been friends since June 1977.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :