Malawi Martyrs day: Time to honour the befallen in earnest

Martyrs Day March 3 presents Malawi with yet another special occasion and opportunity to soberly reflect on how the country has lived up to the ideologies, sacrifices and virtues for which our departed sons and daughters shed blood.

Since time immemorial—from Chilembwe uprising to date—brave souls of this soil have been the source of inspiration and hope, the last threads of the country gasping for justice and freedom.  When all seemed impossible and the rest resigned to the life-style dwindling almost to slavery, they stood up.

When human rights got reduced to luxurious commodities to be enjoyed by the elite, it’s these brave sons and daughters who carried their cross on behalf of not just themselves, their families, tribe or region but everyone. They did it for Malawi. It was for the good of the country.


Weary with the excesses of one party regime, some Malawians, against all odds, risked their lives, families and homes to fight for freedom and political pluralism. Many fled. Some died.

Fed up with the ever subjugation of human rights, justice and political and economic governance, brave and patriotic citizens of this stood up on 20th July, 2011 and shouted enough! They feared not the police well charged to gun down protestors on sight, for they regarded death as part and parcel of the dialogue for a just and free Malawi. These are the martyrs we celebrate today.

In reflection, what have we done to honour them? Granted, some of the beneficiaries of the martyrdom are the State Presidents (dead and alive) presidential aspirants, cabinet Ministers, Parliamentarians, civil society leaders and everyone leading on trust of the rest, Malawians.

Yet, Malawi keeps witnessing leaders who insist on modelling themselves in the images of the oppressors. These are the leaders who cling to power when the constitution says no. These are the leaders who amass wealth at the expense of the poor. These are the leaders who have chosen to sit on the access to information provision so they keep getting involved in cock-eyes acts outside the public glare. True, these are the leaders who ride on the shoulders of tribe, regionalism and nepotism to garner political clout.

They amass economic and political power by creating injustice. They use politics to entrench a culture of hatred towards others other. The list could be longer. Worse even. However, the question of paramount importance here is: if these heroes would wake up today and see the Malawi they self-lessly fought for will they be happy? This is the question which we would should critically reflect on as a nation as we celebrate the lives of our fallen heroes.

So, martyrdom is about remembering our fallen daughters and sons of Malawi. But CHRR and CEDEP take that they should best be remembered in the manner we govern and distribute wealth. Only then will the souls of the martyrs rest in peace.

  • About the Authors: Timothy Mtambo is Executive Director for Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) while Gift Trapence is Executive Director for Centre for Development of People (CEDEP) 

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