Calls for secession, specifically for the Northern Region and federalism (preserve of the Central Region) are refusing to be silenced into submission.
At the heart of the secession demand is the claim, without factual basis I must say, by its advocates that the North has been sidelined and, therefore, has not developed for the past 50 years when Malawi has been an independent State.
On the other hand, calls for a federal State from the Central Region merely want devolution of powers that will see the region getting a fair share of the national cake unlike now when the perception is that the Southern Region is claiming a lion’s one.
My views on secession are clear. In this democratic dispensation citizens are fully entitled to free speech, including agitating for self-determination. What I do not agree with is the unabated cheating making rounds that the North wants to become independent because it has not developed.
The million dollar question is: Which region has and on what basis because statistics say something different? The North is actually doing better than the other regions in human development.
The ruling DPP government has largely remained mute as far as calls for secession and federalism are concerned apart from Vuwa Symon Kaunda shunting around the North feeding chiefs and making them say things against secession.
But DPP supporters in various forums though are forthright and the thrust of their argument is that calls for both secession and federalism are being made in bad faith, essentially by losers in the May 20 election.
They argue that at the moment, Peter Mutharika must be allowed to govern in peace since he won the elections fair and square using the available mechanism and instruments as stipulated in the Constitution.
But all this is besides the point of today’s discussion. Today I want to contend that as calls for secession, federalism and referenda to check people’s views on the same are getting louder, this country is being torn apart by regionalism and tribalism.
And while we are at it, everything is being looked at through the prism of the regionalism and tribalism, causing a paralysis in some cases.
Parliament is currently meeting in Lilongwe to debate the national budget and other important bills. But make no mistake, the first consideration the MPs are considering before they make their contribution is the region and tribe they are coming from.
There is no sense of decency or national consideration. A case in point is the cancer hospital that government wants to construct either in Lilongwe or Blantyre using a loan from some loan shark outside this country (yes, they are all loan sharks although they have some fancy names such as World Bank, IMF and you name them).
Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe told the Parliament that the hospital will be built in Blantyre and not in Lilongwe as earlier envisaged.
Professionals weighed in that this is a good decision because the hospital will take advantage of the specialist doctors available at the medical school to support the hospital’s cancer specialists.
To me this makes complete sense and it is to the benefit of the patient. Why some MPs from the Centre, where I come from by the way, and the North are opposing this, beats me completely. But I know it and it is because they are very bitter and they see things from the point of view of regionalism and tribalism.
My final view is this: We can squabble, quarrel and fight over this and that. As long as it is legal and within our rights, it is fine by me.
Yes, we can go to the hilltop and shout for secession and federalism. It is called free speech.
But as a country, we should just be careful on how we go about it, because we may discover that by the time we finish quarrelling and have settled our differences on secession and federalism, we, in fact, do not have a country to share in the first place.
Regionalism and tribalism are tearing this country apart.
- The article appeared in My Diary column – Weekend Nation newspaper