Ndamo sya Yao feel betrayed: Likonde justifies parallel group

Leaders of a Yao tribal group, Ndamo sya Yao, say they feel betrayed by President Joyce Banda for giving them a cold shoulder since the formation of their grouping.

President Banda, a Yao herself, initiated the creation of the group through her continued calls to her traditional leaders after observing that it was the only major tribe in the country without its own heritage group.

Other Malawian major tribes have their heritage groups such as Mulhako wa Alhomwe for the Lomwe people, uMthetho for the Ngoni while the Tumbukas have Gonapamuhanya.

Ndamo sya Yao was registered with the Malawi Government in 2012 but since then the President  is reported to have shown no interest in it resulting in its impact not been felt by the Yao people.

Yao chiefs: Two groups emerge
Yao chiefs: Two groups emerge

Chairperson of the grouping, Steve Shaban, said they have tried on several occasions to meet President Banda  “including her adviser Rev McDonald Sembereka “ to brief her about the existence of the group but in vain.

But recent reports indicate that the President has been giving leaders of the group a cold shoulder because she has been linked to another parallel Yao heritage group called “Chiwanja cha Yao” where it is reported she will be made patron of the new grouping.

Shaban has described the development as ill-fated, saying it does not make any sense for one tribe to have two different ethnic groups with the similar mission.

However, he indicated they were not bothered with reports of the creation of Chiwanja cha Yao, arguing his group would respect their decision and continue with their plans since they are duly registered.

Shaban said: “It does not make any sense [to have two groups] but we will have no choice but to maintain our group.”

Leaders of the yet-to-be launched Chiwanja cha Yao are believed to have strong links to President Banda and the top brass in the ruling People’s Party (PP).

Interim chairperson of the group, Alhaj John Alidi Likonde, clarified that the two groups are different in many aspects such as missions arguing that Chiwanja cha Yao means a group of Yaos whereas Ndamo sya Yao means the culture of Yaos.

“Even the CCAP church has Livingstonia Synod, Nkhoma Synod and Blantyre Synod but they are all CCAP,” said Likonde who is also Chairperson of the Quadria Muslim Association of Malawi.

Likonde confirmed that they are persuading President Banda to be their Patron.

“We want President Banda to be our Patron if she will allow us to do so,” said Likonde.

Newspaper columnist Raphael Tenthani writing in his  ‘Muckracking’ published in Sunday Times cautioned  the Yao group of taking the Mulhako route as it were in late Mutharika’s regime.

“If truth be told the idea behind ‘Mulhako wa Alhomwe’ was noble but politics hijacked it and turned it into a divisive organisation. Instead of promoting culture it attempted to create a super tribe that was above all else. It soon started to look like you first had to declare your Lhomwe-ness before producing your CV for a job, to say nothing about qualifying for government business,” Tenthani wrote.

“I am not suggesting in any way that ‘Chiwanja cha a Yao’ would also turn nepotistic but ‘Mulhako wa Alhomwe’ before it also started as an innocent cultural organisation.Let us form cultural organisations to preserve our unique cultures but let us not politicise them by dragging national leaders into them,” he advised.

In Malawi, the Yao are spread in a number of districts but are primarily found in Eastern districts of Mangochi, Machinga, Balaka and Zomba.

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