Editor of Malawi’s leading online news, the Nyasa Times, Thom Chiumia was invited to be a panellist at the debate organised by St Andrews University of Scotland which was held at the Royal Commonwealth Society in London on Monday.
The debate was held under the theme: ‘Will the Arab Spring be followed by an African Winter?’ The theme was taken following the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa also exploring the popular protests eruption on the African continent like the July 20 demonstrations in Malawi.
Chiumia, who is also coordinator of Malawi Diaspora Forum in UK, joined the panel which included Professor Louise Richardson Principal of the University of St Andrews who chaired, Open University Professor Myles Wickstead, Iain Ferguson Chairman of the Wilton Park Board and Ernest Rwamucyo, High Commissioner of Rwanda to the United Kingdom.
In his contribution during the debate, Chiumia said there has been a “Malawian spring” citing the recent protests and stay-away from work organised by the civil society.
Chiumia said though the Malawi scenario would not be the same way like the one in the Arab world, he believes “there will be an African winter in terms of dark days where the government will oppress any source of insurrection like what happened when 19 people were killed in cold blood during the July 20 nationwide demonstrations in Malawi.”
The exiled journalist pointed out that Bingu wa Mutharika administration “has managed to quell dissent in civil society, academia and opposition parties through propaganda, intimidation and terror.”
On the reign of terror, Chiumia highlighted the “petrol-bombing of activists’ houses, fakes car accidents like one on vice president Joyce Banda, death threats on critics including journalists and even murder on university student activist Robert Chasowa.”
He told the audience, mostly graduates from University of St Andrews who are members of the London Alumni Club over 4,000 in London and 10,000 members worldwide, that there has been stifling of freedom in Malawi, like neighbouring Zimbabwe and that the two governments were following similar patterns of oppression.
Chiumia said press freedom, academic freedom and democracy is being suffocated in Malawi.
On his part, the Rwandan envoy, an economist, said the future of Africa is bright citing the recent elections in Zambia when an opposition candidate Micheal Sata defeated an incumbent, saying there can be change of power through free, fair and credible polls.
“Africa is in a process of democratisation,” he said. “Negotiations, dialogue is picking up in a way of resolving conflicts.”
Fergusson pointed out that Africa need to improve its economy by fighting corruption and attract foreign investments to curb poverty and youth unemployment.
After the debate, Chiumia and the panellists were invited to join Director of Africa at British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Tim Hitchens, St Andrews Alumni Club London secretary Zoe Ware, chairman James North and Associate Director of RCS Patrick Winsour for a “private dinner” at the Commonwealth Club where they held talks in-camera.
Past speakers at the prestigious society include African leaders such as revered Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Kenneth Kaunda and Paul Kagame.
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