People say African presidents love power too much that they don’t resign no matter what.In times of socio-political and economic crises, a typical African leader would rather have all people kill each other for him or her and burn every property down to ashes than resign from office even if that was viably the last solution to save lives and bring lasting peace and progress.
Factually, that is true about African leaders. They love power more than their people. But I have an exceptional African President just a few miles away from home who had resigned from office just because his people and mostly his own government and party officials were practicing rampant tribalism. This president was Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia.
In the evening of 4th February 1968, President Kaunda surprised his top party and government officials when he resigned during the party’s Convention at Chilenje Welfare Hall in Lusaka. Unknown to the President, top party officials had been practicing tribalism which had led to the creation of several tribal camps in the party and government. The tribal camps were constantly fighting against each other. At the Convention, their fights erupted as they argued over equal tribal representation in the elections of officers into party committees and offices and in government appointments and the entire civil service.
President Kaunda was so shocked. The tribal camps and fights had been so concealed from his knowledge that he had no idea that he was leading a political party and nation that was so fragmented along tribal affiliations. He did not hesitate but resigned right there because, as a matter of personal principles, he would not lead a party and a nation that were fighting and divided among themselves just because of tribes.
After the President had resigned, the top party and government officials were very ashamed of themselves. Knowing what was at stake, they quickly mobilized religious leaders, army generals and commanders, relatives and friends of the President and anyone from any tribe with enough brainpower to help persuade Kaunda against his resignation. It was not easy, but after some time and enough talks, Kaunda withdrew his resignation. The government and party officials repented and from that time, they all embraced the idea and ideals of ONE ZAMBIA ONE NATION.
Kaunda’s resignation came to my mind when I heard about the beautiful speech that President Mutharika gave on Sunday at the Mulhakho wa Alhomwe cultural festival. The President spoke against tribalism in favor of national unity.
But then I asked myself if President Mutharika really understands how the tentacles of tribalism have spread in this country right from his ruling DPP to the very core of government and the entire national politics. Or maybe, just like Kaunda, the real truth is concealed from him except for a few lies from his top party and government officials who perhaps wrote the very cosmetic speech he gave?
Under different circumstances, I could have joined praise-singers and worship that speech. But this is not the time because Malawi has reached a point where we don’t need speeches against tribalism but a decisive and very bold action against this evil, and the President is the one to take that action. I mean a historic action which could instantly evoke repentance of the evil doers and transform not only the DPP but their entire political system and landscape. Mutharika must stand up and refuse to be president of a tribally fragmented nation and act, not speak, on unifying the country.
As far as I am concerned, even the post-May 21 elections’ demonstrations and violence, and the public anger against Mutharika and the DPP administration stem from the arrogance of DPP and the institutionalized tribalism which has become the fabric of party and national politics – it is not about Jane Ansah but about a system that is perpetually rewarding a minority in a certain tribe and region while continuously punishing a collective majority in other tribes and regions. It’s about a system that deprives more than 60% of the population a chance to form government but allows less than 40% of the population to overrule majority vote and form government due to tribal numbers.
This must be fixed by allowing all Malawians despite their ethnic affiliations and regional background to feel co-ownership of this nation and co-manage its resources. Just like President Kaunda, Mutharika must make a decision that he shall be a President whose people will have to remember him as the leader who united them and inspired them to pursue the dream of ONE MALAWI ONE NATION.
Otherwise, he will be remembered as the president who watched his country burn and his people die just because he was too weak to demolish the wall of tribalism.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :