A story by the country’s oldest weekly, Malawi News, in which it is posted that Malawi is implicated in a recent terror attack that claimed 21 lives has raised grave tumult across the country with most commentators saying there could be serious repercussions regarding the country’s international relations.
In the story titled ‘Malawi implicated in Kenyan Terror, the report cites a South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) producer and analyst Izak Khomo’s analysis in which he claimed that Malawi was connected to the attack in Nairobi, Kenya last Tuesday.
Khomo said: “There are Al Shabaab fighters in Tanzania…most of them are Zanzibaris, some of them are across Tanzania from Dar es Salaam area…. You have got Al-Shabab fighters from Uganda. These are ADF-linked fighters. And there are also Al-Shabab fighters from Mozambique, northern Mozambique….And also from Malawi.
“Southern Malawi, mostly Yao, there are many of them, Muslims and many of them, not because they are muslims but many of them did, actually, go to the Al-Shabab camps over there. But it is not only Al-Shabab, that’s a thing which everybody has to realise. Also we have Isis. And we have also got an Isis presence in South Africa. When I am talking about Isis, I am not talking about the Durban, the home-grown Isis, I am talking about the foreign Isis.”
But most Malawians and the Chiwanja Cha Ayawo Heritage chairperson, Abdul Aziz Yasin, have described the allegations as “unfortunate” and “serious.”
Governance expert, Henry Chingaipe, said “it was shameful. Editors [of this newspaper] must stop these jokes.”
Writing on his Facebook page, Nicholas Msowoya, said: “This kind of reporting is careless, for fear of using the most suitable adjective.”
And, Geneva-based Malawian and social commentator, Stanley Onjezani Kenani, said the paper had goofed.
“Over the years, you have led with many groundbreaking stories that have shaped the course of our nation. However, today’s headline is sensational, untrue and totally uncalled for. All the story says is that a fellow called Izak Khomo said some of the Al-Shabaab terrorists come from as far afield as Malawi. Surely, just because one man in a broadcasting studio interview says so then Malawi is implicated? Really?” wondered Kenani.
According to him, the headline was out of place.
“If the President of Kenya had accused Malawi of sponsoring terrorism I would have agreed with your headline. Even if, for argument’s sake, some of the Al Shabaab members were to be from Malawi, how can mentioning such a fact mean Malawi is implicated?,” he questioned.
Kenani asked the paper to withdraw the headline.
“You can do better than this. This headline needs to be withdrawn on a front page with an apology. There are far-reaching consequences when a country begins to be associated with terrorism,” he opined.
But Peter Makossah, a trained journalist, had reservations on the headline.
“Come on, this was said on a national television in Kenya. So how is reporting news that has a public interest careless? This is already in public domain. Blame the guy who said it not the reporter because the reporter, as his or her job entails, is to report,” Makossah also wrote on Facebook.
According to reports, African countries, including Malawi, are considered a relatively easy target for terrorists, with their porous borders and relatively lax police presence.
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