Malawi: Historian calls for United Malawi on Kamuzu Day
On the 14th of May, Malawi celebrated the life and legacy of the country’s founding father Hastings Kamuzu Banda for his political, social and economic contributions towards development. Kamuzu Banda ruled the country from 1961 to 1994.
During his 31year presidency, Kamuzu promoted unity, discipline among Malawians and agriculture, particularly maize and tobacco farming. He also managed to put up infrastructure developments such as roads, University of Malawi, Kamuzu college of nursing, Kamuzu stadium, state houses, international airport and irrigation schemes, among others.
But as the country remembered his contributions on 14th May, the question from pundits still remained; do Malawians emulate his legacy? One of the country’s historians Conleith Selenje who is also Executive Director for Lost History Foundation says the country is trying to follow his development footprints. Selenje, however pointed out that stakeholders need to do much in uniting the country that has been divided along regional and tribal lines.
“To some extent, I may say that we are indeed following the foot prints and foundation that the first president Kamuzu Banda laid in terms of education, agriculture and security. But again, we are failing in some aspect, for example, Kamuzu promoted unity. On this I may say we are failing, as you can say Malawi is disintegrated and divided in terms of tribe and region”. Selenje said.
Selenje added that Malawians needed to know that the country could not progress if it continued to be divided along regional and tribe lines.
Born in the central district of Kasungu in around 1898, Kamuzu Banda stayed in Southern Rhodesia now Zimbabwe before going to South Africa where he worked at the Witwatersrand Deep Mine for several years. During this time, he met Bishop Vernon of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), who offered to pay for his education at a Methodist school in the United States.
Further, between 1925-1937, Kamuzu Banda studied history, philosophy and medicine at Central State, Indiana and Chicago universities including Meharry Medicine college in Tennessee, before leaving for United Kingdom where he attained second medical degree at University of Edinburgh.
He worked as a doctor in the UK for many years until in 1946, when he took an increasingly active interest in his native land, advising the Nyasaland African Congress and providing it with some financial supports.
On 6th July 1958, Banda finally returned to Nyasaland to speak against colonialism and advocate for independence. On 3 March, 1959, Banda, along with hundreds of other Africans, was arrested in the course of "Operation Sunrise". He was imprisoned in Gwelo Zimbabwe and the leadership of the Nyasaland African Congress was temporarily assumed by Orton Chirwa.
In 1963, he was appointed Prime Minister of Nyasaland and led the country to independence as Malawi a year later. Two years later, he proclaimed Malawi a republic with himself as President. He consolidated power and later declared Malawi a one-party state under the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). In 1971, Banda made himself the country’s life President.
However, in 1993, Malawi held a referendum against the one rule system and later voted for a democratic president Dr. Bakili Muluzi in 1994.
Banda died in a South African hospital on November 25th 1997, reportedly at 99.