The images of those eight younger ones in blood, stone cold, after the stampede at what was supposed to be Malawi’s 53rd Independence Celebrations at the Chinese built Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe, invoked the historian in me with even more deeper reflections of our nation.
Their blood took me to 1959, the year so much blood was shed as a bargain for this same independence which, its mere celebration this year, has spilled yet more gallons of blood, claiming lives of mostly younger ones we should have protected.
You see, the journey to July 6 1964, the day Malawi got its independence from Britain, was bloody. Too bloody.
Thousands, known and unknown, were brutally killed, in various dark corners of the country, by well-funded and extremely fed British
Colonial forces with a clear goal of keeping Malawians away from governing themselves.
Read Malawi in Crisis: The 1959/60 Nyasaland State of Emergency and its Legacy, edited by reputable Malawi history professors Kings M. Phiri, John McCracken and Wapulumuka Mulwafu.
In the book, various historians of globally accepted repute provide telling and moving historically proven accounts on how the British forces shed seas of blood just to keep Malawians besieged under their yoke of colonialism.
For every drop of blood that was shed, then, the promise of its importance was a better tomorrow for Malawi. Just as many other African countries fresh from colonial jaws through the spill of blood in the 1960s winds of change, the solace was the promise that an African led Africa would be different from white ruled one. This is the philosophy that moved great Ghanaian pan Africanist, Kwame Nkrumah, to rise on the global podium shouting: Africa for Africans!
The journeys, since then, haven’t been uniform.
However, the writings on the wall bore testimony that although other nations—such as Nigeria, Ghana, Mauritius, Botswana, Morocco, Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambiqu–are making progress, Malawi, despite being peaceful since its independence in 1964, continues to remain unmoved in the doldrums of poverty.
The country remains the scar on the conscious of Africa’s development. It is not moving forward, neither backwards—it is stuck, watching other nations progressing. Quite sad.
This is why, when I saw the blood of those killed allegedly going to celebrate the Independence Day, I was taken back to the blood that was shed in the 1960s—the quest for betterment.
The questions is: Were the eight, so far, that have died in their quest to be part of the Independence celebrations really sure of what they were going to celebrate about?
To me their death is symbolic.
Malawi, by every global standard, remains poor and dirty. The blood that was shed in 1960s was premised from the need to have a Malawi, after 53 years, that is economically independent and can feed itself, employ its people and make a better life for all.
The fact that Malawi, after 53 years of independence, still remains poor so much that its government cannot even effectively fund the basic needs of its people, presupposes that, perhaps, more blood need to be shed for betterment.
Come to think of it. Bingu Stadium, built by Chinese loan, is a symbol of development that the poor—especially the proximate poor of Ntandire slum, who represents more 60 percent of the Malawi poor—always dream to see, admire and experience its grandeur for free.
Yes they cannot afford to pay to get inside because, together with their parents, they don’t have money to pay for regular local soccer showpieces there.
Those poor kids that died in the urge to see the symbol of betterness, to be close to what they consider progress, reminds us of one thing: Most Malawians are still poor but they will do anything, even shedding blood, to see betterment. We are a nation yearning for the better.
Let’s get the fact clear here: There was no international friendly at the Stadium as it has always been the case. Those pushing to get inside didn’t want to see the face of President and his grandeur.
Those that died are from the proximate Ntandire slum dwellers, who represents Malawi’s continued poverty. They were going there because the celebration were free on a holiday—the only opportunity for them to be close to progress.
Their death, I underline, should remind all of us, even those in power, that Malawians are tired of flying backwards.
They have shown, in their quest to shed blood just to have a feel of Chinese—built progress, that they are ready even to shed their own blood to meet their quest.
Surely, the blood shed before 1964 was not enough. This second generation of blood shedding will be momentous, a breakpoint.
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