Malawians are an interesting lot. It was amazing this week to see the anger and the debate that ensued following one placard carried during the Gender Based Violence (GBV) demonstration in Lilongwe. To be honest, and considering the closed culture that Malawi is; we can understand the anger towards this one woman activist who decided to do things the unconventional way to send a message across. A woman who wanted to break the monotony of such demonstrations.
My wish, though, is that it would have been of great help to our nation if Malawians were that quick to anger on everything that affect their lives. I really wish Malawians could show that anger every day for the unbearable cost of living while politicians are busy ransacking our economy through corruption, theft and diversion of public resources; I wish that same anger was directed at our politicians when eight people died at Bingu International Stadium or when Area 18 residents were made to drink water mixed with sewer or when our state-run companies decides to donate millions of kwacha to the ruling party.
I wish this anger comes out whenever, we remember that we have no drugs in our public health facilities and we are every day needlessly losing lives or when our children stay out of classes for months just because their teachers or lecturers are fighting for their salaries. One would bet that Malawians have lots of things to worry about more than this harmless placard.
I think much has been said on this placard and I do not intend to prolong the debate but one thing is clear; through that placard the woman executed the best weapon ever to be unleashed during demonstrations of that nature and the weapon, I doubt, if it has missed the target this time around. If it has, then surely as a nation, especially men who are at the center of GBV will never listen to anything to change our ways. Surely, the writing on that placard has shocked and shaken the very foundation of the oppressive system that for long has embraced GBV as a norm. In this placard, the message on GBV has been sent home but more important is the subtle message from that woman: that if GBV continues at the rate it is now, these women are ready to parade in our streets naked to drive their point home. Do not be surprised when that ‘naked parade’ comes our way, this is a warning shot.
As I have said Malawians are an interesting lot indeed and our love is but going round in circles, we do not like to move forward and see our nation develop. We seem averse with anything that will carry us from point A to B and then C; we always like to be taken back from where we have already been. We seem to be contended with our global tag of being the least developed or the poorest nation on earth. This is about the annual circus that has become of our participation at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
No dispute, this is a noble gathering as it attracts leaders from across the world and accords nations like us (with leaders who behave like political survival is all that they care about and not national development) a learning platform from great leaders who have managed to bring a difference to their nations, development wise. However, for poor Malawi, it seems the issue is different; I am doubtful if our annual participation at UNGA is spent for that opportune moment to learn.
It seems the UNGA meeting is an opportunity for President Arthur Peter Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to compensate those cadets and some of similar kind, who have worked tirelessly from October the previous year to September the following year, defending the mediocrity that has become of our leadership.
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This year, we are told that Mutharika will lead a 19 member delegation, which includes three cabinet ministers, senior government officials and some members of the media. There will be no party representatives in the delegation. No doubt, having been told this, still some members will accompany the President as Guests as has been the custom every year. I really don’t know if these guests are for the United Nations or the Malawi Government but the question is why include mere guests on such an important trip that costs a hefty sum more than any other presidential outing.
It also beats me that every time, there is a regional or continental meeting of Heads of States here in Africa, our President gives an excuse not to attend. The common justification for the President’s no show at those regional and continental meetings is that our economic situation cannot afford such a trip and the country would rather save the little we have for other important national causes.
Now, which is more costly flying the President and probably one or two ministers to Addis in Ethiopia or Johannesburg in South Africa for a day or two and flying the President and a team of his household hands at State House plus guests to New York in the USA where they would spend more than two weeks with the advance team like journalists spending almost three weeks? This is why some people have speculated that there is more to this UNGA meetings than what an ordinary Malawian sees.
Some people have also suggested that the USA trips which take every year is in fact designed to fulfill citizenship requirements of Mutharika in that country. The suggestions have it that this is why he over stays each time he goes to the USA.
The interesting thing (not unusual to us as a nation since we are already an interesting lot) is that year in year out when the UNGA comes the talk is about justifying the numbers accompanying the president and extenuating the days to be spent there. Let us only hope that this year, indeed the number is 19, which to me is still not necessary, and that indeed the President will be there for two weeks as has been announced.
Our plea, is that if the President will want to extend his stay to include his holiday days; that has to be communicated to us. He should not just disappear as if he is not answerable to Malawians as has been the case in the previous years. Remember, his brother late President Bingu Wa Mutharika would openly tell us that he would proceed for his annual holiday after the UNGA meetings and although he could not disclose his destination we would at least know that he has proceeded to take a breather.
There is already a lot of talking about meetings President Mutharika is going to attend while at UNGA, and last year, even the other year we also had a lot of talk about meetings and deals being signed and sealed. Let us hope that this talk is not just a smokescreen to make us believe later that the long stay in the USA is genuine.
Our request is simple; to really show that these trips are for us as Malawians and not just for the benefit of the President and few of his greedy henchmen, this time around instead of reading a long list of what meetings have been attended, who the President met and what deals have been signed, please make efforts to document and reconcile what came on the ground out of the deals that were signed and sealed during the 70th and 71st UNGA trips.