Those calling for federalism are actually looking for recognition

Following the fall of Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union in 1989 and 1991, respectively, American political scientist, Francis Fukuyama wrote an essay – later published as a book in 1992: The End of History and the Last Man. In it, Fukuyama argues that the evolution of human societies is not open ended; the evolution of these societies would eventually end, when humanity has achieved all its deepest and foremost longings. He described that ending as The End of History.

For Fukuyama, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union was the triumph of liberal democracy over communism – an end to ideological differences and therefore no need for further struggle for ideological shifts. This does not mean important and historical events would never take place again, indeed, a decade later the world witnessed the 9/11 Al-Qaeda bombing of the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre Twin Towers in the United States of America.

Federism campaigners: Some MPs from the North Malawi backing calls for power-sharing

Federism campaigners: Some MPs from the North Malawi backing calls for power-sharing

Since then terrorist groups have mushroomed all over the world, causing sleepless nights in the corridors worlds’ super powers. Two decades after Fukuyama’s theses, North Africa and Middle East witnessed political uprisings (the Arab Spring)people fighting to free themselves from decades-old dictatorships. People longing for an ideal place where personal freedoms and a sense of personal worth are no longer a preserve of the privileged few.

It is human nature to break free and fight for what one considers right and just. This is why autocracies and oppressive regimes eventually fall. Recently there have been a wave of demands by semi-autonomous states and regions for self-governing. From Spain’s Catalan region, Zanzibar, to Scotland where those seeking secession narrowly lost in a referendum, which would have seen Scottish people breaking away from United Kingdom. Today United Kingdom is working on power devolution so Scotland can have a bigger say on how Britain is governed. The vote was lost but something significant has been gained.

In Malawi there is an on going debate about federalism. The calls are in response to president’s Mutharika’s lack of inclusiveness in his cabinet and top government appointments. There is also a sense by the people of northern Malawi that their region has been neglected, development-wise, by successive Malawi governments. Malawi has had 5 presidents since its independence in 1964 – Hastings Kamuzu Banda from central region and the remaining four from southern region, Bakili Muluzi, Bingu wa Mutharika, Joyce Banda and Peter Mutharika, in that order.

Political language championed by Bakili Muluzi in Malawi has it that leaders only develop their home districts. I cannot be sure whether this is the case in reality but the notion has been challenged by recent revelations that Machinga, Muluzi’s home district, is the only district in the country without a boarding secondary school.

Yet, the sense among most Malawians remains that only regions where presidents and majority of cabinet ministers come from are bound to get significant development projects. Unless there is concrete evidence, this remains a myth.

Nonetheless, those calling for federalism (forget the secession calls for now) base their argument mainly on this. Critics and detractors have called those calling for federalism greedy, selfish and power hungry. Yet, as Fukuyama observed in The End of History, this is just human. Fukuyama recognises a quest for recognition as a key human condition, which has, in fact, has been the main driver of historical changes and evolution of human societies throughout history. People have fought wars and have died over it.

It is a condition, which according Fukuyama, the Greek philosopher, Plato, identified as thymos. This is “an innate human sense of justice.” Fukuyama’s work has drawn a lot of criticism, some justified and some for the lack of understanding but it offers some useful insight into the current debate on federalism in Malawi. I doubt that those calling for federalism genuinely believe that federalism and national development are the same thing.

Whether they know it or not, those calling for federalism are actually looking recognition. They are tired of being treated as second-class citizens, at the mercy of Other people.

No one in their right minds thought multiparty democracy would bring development to Malawi but 21 years on Afrobarometer statistics indicate that over 70 per cent of Malawians still prefer democracy than reverting to one party rule. Never mind the country’s daily whining about poor service delivery, perennial hunger, colossal state corruption and massive unemployment. Freedom and a sense of personal worth matters.


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27 thoughts on “Those calling for federalism are actually looking for recognition”

  1. Barton Chikaya says:

    Kodi inu maNortherners, mukapasidwa dziko lanu loyima palokha, mudzakwanitsa kulemba ntchito amene adzachotsedwa ntchito ku mwera ndi chigawo cha pakati? Nanga ana anu amene ali ku mauniversity,makoleji ndi sukulu zosiyana-siyana mudzawapatsa malo ophunzilirako?

    Muganize mofatsa tsiku la referendum lisanafike.

  2. Chigumbuli says:

    Federal system of governing in this country already exist. Ask our churches i.e. CCAP, Catholic, Seventh Day etc. Mukandifusa ineyo i will tell you that this country requires development. Development everywhere. The question should be how do we achieve that? Federal system if it is based on regionalism then it is a wrong track. Why? Because later on it will become districtism, then areasim, therafter villageism etc. However, we Malawians are very intelligent people. The problem here is development across the country. Let us find a lasting solution to the existing problem of development across the country.

  3. Piper says:

    You wouldn’t be talking now if it wasn’t for someone talking about multiparty democracy back in the days. Now someone is talking federal system and you are saying they only want recognition ? Think first before you open your mouth and show everyone that you are incapable of using your brain !! I rest my case …..

  4. Mjumacharo says:

    Inya we have never been recognised as true Malawians bu since 1912 we have shaped and contributed to the Malawi/Nyasaland history polically and economically. If no one will recognise us Northerners then we will recognise ourselves. If someone is afraid of seccesion or federalism then they must start treating northerners as true Malawians NOW!!

  5. mr me says:

    some of you the so called lomwe’s whether chewa’s I suggest you are sick minded and that you are talking” commenting” no sense here because your fore fathers are the creators of this so called nepotism. This thing of nepotisim started long time back only that this time mwatha mantha and that you are doing it plainly. And winawe you saying we the Northerners should go back to our homes kumathengere, watch your big mouth bady waiwala kwanu kuja you still using those round houses yet kumatukwana apa mbuzi ya munthu iwe, my last word is that what goes around comes back around.

    1. Inu says:

      I think it is typical for people to see other people’s weakness than their own. Do you remember Chakufwa China’s first executive committee of AFORD when it became a party? Was it not pure nepotism? In fact many people then knew who Chihana was but his tribalistic attitudes made him lose the election. So do a self reflection and you will see why people have issues with the people from the north.

      Again it is plain simple. How many tribes are in Malawi? There are Senas, Mang’anjas, Lomwes, Yaos, Ngonis, Chewas from the central and Southern regions of Malawi.. Why then only an issue with the northern tribes and in particular Tumbukas. There has to be a reason and that is where we needed to spend our effort to find out why.

      I would suggest that firstly we do no a workforce audit. Let us soberly look at workplaces and compare where a Tumbuka is the head and where a person from the other tribes is the head and look at the composition of the workforce? That will tell you something. I prefer to look at these issues with a sober mind and I keep telling people that this issue that you are starting now will seriously backfire on the northern tribes. Let the people from the central and south become similarly vocal and the end result will not be pleasant. But as they say, there are always winners and losers when change takes place. So who is going to win or lose in this one, the judgement is yours. Time will tell

      1. donie chigwambala says:

        #INU…..then let northerners become independent coz ur just crying here as if northerners are still clinging to u assholes!!!

  6. mai nsato says:

    Atumbuka mukubowa zedi. kazipitani ku thengere kwanuko. wakuletsani ndaniyo????

    1. Piper says:

      Let them go and we stay right here in Bangalala !!!

  7. mthakati says:

    I had hoped this would be the perfect forum to have this discussion but I see it is wasted on some of these bozos making the stupid comments here. I will still say my piece. I agree everybody seeks recognition ( I prefer the concept of validation) from their society or others that they look up to. Look at our political history. We have glorified John Chilembwe, Kamuzu Banda etc, which is rightly so, but they did not do it alone. We rarely recognize those foot soldiers from all over the country, and Nkhatabay is particularly overrepresented. The Kanyama Chiumes, Orton Chirwa ( the architect of the constitution) etc. Now lets look at cultural perception. I have heard so many jokes about the “backward northerners”. Are we surprised that they tend to excel in education and even bussiness? I would do the same. If you think I am dumb, I will strive to prove to you that I am better. Similarly, many of you have said a northerner can not run the country, perhaps they are trying to prove that they can, even if it is only in their region. Perhaps as a society if we recognised each other’s strengths and weaknesses we might be able to move forward.

    1. francis says:

      this is what this forum is here for well said mr some of these people am nt sure why they open their big mouth.they even dont knw the meaning of distributing the cake of the nation equally it is time justice need to be served

  8. Mbanangwa says:

    The way to go is by ‘federal system ‘ of government. MCP backs it and if the north backs it, the referendum will carry the day. What has triggered this debate? Ignoble leadership of Bingu.

  9. VYOTO says:


    1. Inu says:

      Yeah, politics did change, but then what has the north gained? I remember during the transition to multi-party politics, people romanticised the process just as now. Malawians want to change things without deeply thinking about how that change should serve them. We can do a lot better by changing how we value government property, how as individual citizens contribute to our country and the values that we embrace. In our current status, not much will change even if we introduce federalism. It will just be a change of actors but the same scene. For sure now, multiparty has failed to deliver on the promises it made. However I agree also that I would not want to live again under a single-party rule. We cannot be sure whether Federalism will fulfill its promise.

      Most of the people who support federation like to cite the examples of the US and UK and Nigeria. However the UK and USA have no parallels with our country. Those were independent states before and had to form a union based on common interests and understanding. Nigeria is a different story and its federation was based on religous and ethnic differences. The north of Nigeria still remains poor today just like the north of many countries in Africa. What proponents of federation should do however is to demonstrate that as a result of federation such such a place has developed compared to when it was under unitary system. Just citing examples without demonstrating the changes is gross irresponsibility.

  10. Bubu says:

    Look at the bigger picture guys. Its first about North getting something than the nothing its having or has had in the past. Recognition can not be avoided here and its not a primary motive.

  11. Chete says:

    A Chisi,ndiye kuti anthu onse a kumpoto ndi pakati akufuna recognition?This issue is already at an advanced stage.Just because you have a party,and you think that you can win support by saying so,or you dont want your party to suffer a small recognition if the nation becomes federal,basi mwati mupange quash calls for federalism and seccission?Kikikiki,dunderhead…after all,how many votes did you get?1000 anakwana?Let people decide on the best way forward.You dont put food on peoples tables.After all by forming that party you wanted to be stealing from peoples coffers as well.So,you think by forming a federal system your chances of getting a big chunk in government will fade.Fuck you.Malawians want to have government funds pafupi for easy development.With this kind of thinking,you wanted people to vote for you?You do not put food on peoples tables,so let people whta is best for them.After all,we recommend what this government is doing by listening to the peopls views,so,dont lag in the 17 th century my friend.America,the richest nation on earth is federal,South Africa,the wealthiest nation on the African continent is federal,Australia,a very wealthy nation is federal,and many many countries are federal.So,for Malawi its no.Do you own Malawi?

  12. malawi says:

    Let northerners decide of secession through referendum vote.. As for federal system the whole nation has to make a decision. Tired with these selfish leaders

    1. Mbolo says:

      and let them not rig elections results they r good at rigging these guys!!!

  13. MBULI says:

    When one has an empty head amatukwana monga mwana wa Satana. The writer has presented his opinion which need to be critiqued. People of other region must keep cool since the problems of the North won’t affect them. Why get agitated as if we have burnt ur blankets. People of Wales & England not behave as u do. Is it that bcoz they are educated & cilivised? Shame on black race! Remember a Lomwe came in 1914 as hunger refugees, check ur history from ulomwe. Tinkhale nawo analanda malo.

  14. Kantchowa says:

    A Chihana mukungofuna udindo basi.

  15. chekambewa says:

    Ayi chinkhope ngati thako supit

  16. True North says:

    Attack the issue not the face u mediocre akazi inu ofuna quota cìfukwa kulemba Mayeso ndi a anthu omuna simungakhoze muli pa Need Support yimene Bingu anati Quota System. The issue at hand is Tribalcracy. Government of the Lomwe by the Lomwe & for the Lomwe. Achewa musapusisidwe a Lomwe sakukufunani. Bingu introduced Quota within Quota & thus gospel truth.

    1. Asante says:

      Koma khope ikakhala ya khakhi choletsa ndi chani to make a comment

  17. John says:

    A jimmy mwataninso kodi apa. Why are you contradicting yourself now!! Let me summarize your own article, which is something you could have done to end your article on a high note……
    Even if the North losses the referendum, the powers to be(in this the arrogant DPP) will be working on a power devolution so the North can have a bigger say on how Malawi is governed- the vote will be lost but something significant will be gained!
    You see, even if these guys are fighting for “recognition”, which queit frankly i dont give a rat’s ass if they are, something more important will come out of this regardless.

  18. lufina says:

    Good Piece Jimmy albeit with a few grammatical errors. I thought you teach language and communications at Chancellor College, isn’t there an element of Grammar there too? anyway it must be the weed that made you write such a good essay with significant grammatical errors. Nevertheless good piece bwana

  19. John says:


  20. Papa says:

    Chihana mzimu wa bambo ako ukukantha, taonani chinkhope ngati swiswiri.

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