Off the wall of Idriss Ali Nassah: Opportunity to introspect on active citizenship in Malawi

My comrade and friend Billy Mayaya, especially, shouldn’t be discouraged that last week’s demonstrations against George Chaponda ended up being nothing more that muffled noise. Rather, it should be an opportunity to introspect on, among other things, method, messaging and mobilization of active citizenship in Malawi.

Civil Society Organizations demonstration … Lilongwe-(c) Abel Ikiloni, Mana

Anyone who leads a movement knows that to be effective, especially over a period of time, you have to change methods and tactics.

Right now, it seems the default position to the many problems we face is to call people to the streets to demonstrate. It shouldn’t be. You have to mix things up; yes, you march in the streets on some matters, but other times you hold town-hall meetings, you also do contact and dialogue with the authorities, you go on an information blitz, you build a movement with the disgruntled and you fertilize the ground in preparation for a day of grand action.

If you call for demonstrations at every opportunity, what happens is that fatigue creeps in, the demonstrations have little impact, people tune out and the targets (in this case President Peter Mutharika and Chaponda) are bolstered by what they see as lack of popular support against them.

As seasoned activists, I know Billy, Gift Trapence, Timothy Mtambo and others in the struggle understand this more than any other person.

Now, I have seen Billy Mayaya being singled out for ridicule after last week’s events. That is absurd because–without realizing it–we are becoming a nation that has little respect for those of us brave enough to put life and limb on the line in standing up for principles and values, against injustice and impunity.

The comfort in this, though, is that most of the ridicule is coming from people who themselves don’t do anything for any cause and have never stood for anything. They are just talking heads.

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5 years ago

Talking heads, walking legs – equally ineffective.

In the old days, the elders would gather, have their ‘indaba’, pass the calabash round and round, and stagger home without an action plan, thinking they had set their world to rights. Nothing changed.

Today, we gather, march, chant, and wave our placards. Perhaps we present a petition. We take our selfies, share them on social media,and drive home without an action plan, thinking we have set our world to rights. Nothing changes.

Don’t waste time chanting, ‘We want action now.’ What we want is an action plan now.

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