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.
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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