As Malawians continue to add their voices to calls for federalism, it has emerged that President Peter Mutharika proposed federalism and proportional representation in the country, describing them as two possible ways of doing away with concerns of regional marginalisation.
Addressing the National Constitutional Review Conference in Lilongwe, held from 28 to 31 March 2006 titled ‘Towards a More Manageable Constitution, Mutharika, then professor at Washington University School of Law in USA, publicly proposed federalism while addressing the issue of national unity.
According to published reports, this is sharp contrast to his latest statements condemning calls for federalism, a principle he proposed in 2006.
Mutharika recently advised political and religious leaders not divide the nation with calls for federalism or secession.
In the paper, Mutharika claims that proportional representation worked well in countries like Namibia, South Africa and Mauritius, urging Malawians to borrow the leaf from those countries.
Making a case on the federal system of government, Mutharika also used the Nigerian government, saying “Another and perhaps more radical response (are) to simply abolish the three regions and create the district as the basic administrative unit.”
The paper says Nigeria successfully resolved the problems that were created by the existence of its three regions at the time of independence in 1960 into what are now 36 States and one federal territory.
“While the initial decision to abolish the regions led to war, Nigeria is now a much more unified and stable country,” he said.
When asked by Malawi flagship daily The Nation newspaper to comment on Mutharika’s ‘conflicting’ statements, Press Secretary Frederick Ndala argued that the Presidents still holds the views he voiced in 2006, saying his position on the matter has not evolved.
But Chancellor College based political commentator, Joseph Chunga noted that although the President proposed federalism some years ago, he would not be comfortable to stand up for it now given the power he has now as Head of State.
Chunga said a federal system of government would not offer him much control of the State than in the current unitary State.
“If the President’s opinion on federalism has not been changed, then it is very unlikely that his party would go against it.
“I don’t expect the Information Minister or any government official to go against the idea when the President was for it. But still more, we have to ask; why was the President referring to a document that has views that he is now against? It does not help matters at all,” said Chunga.
But Information, Tourism and Culture Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa recently said government would ask the Public Affairs Committee (PAC), the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) and other stakeholders to facilitate debate on the matter.
Meanwhile, PAC has resolved to hold a a national stakeholders forum on inclusivity and federalism November 24 and 25 under theme ‘Enhancing a Common Understanding on Inclusivity and Federalism in Malawi.
The conference will engage speakers on federalism from abroad, in particular from countries practising the principle.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :