By Dave Mankhokwe Namusanya
THE grave that swallowed John Chilembwe is ‘nonexistent’. Leading some, skeptics always, to doubt if he really was killed by the Britons – our colonial masters.
But even the graves of those who died forty-four years later after Chilembwe’s death are mostly unknown. These are the people who were massacred by the same Britons in Nkhatabay upon the declaration of a state of emergency in Nyasaland on 3 March 1959. Such, are the graves of the martyrs of this nation. They are graves not only unmarked but ignored, rejected and abandoned too.
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And even the grave of Britain, the Kingdom that colonized us, is not known. Is it Kwacha Conference Centre (where a new republican constitution was adopted) or Kamuzu stadium (where the then republican flag was hoisted)? It seems nobody knows.
Or maybe it is not those two places but a new place or, worse still, it was not buried? Her ghost, perhaps, was left free to haunt, and the corpse was left to decompose and fill the entire nation with a stench so powerful? Or even, dangerously and scary still, Britain never died and thus was never buried – it still is alive in this country!
That, then, is the problem with unmarked graves: they invite a lot of questions, they trouble the mind. Graves that are not marked perform perfectly well the art of deceiving. They are a danger in some, if not all, way. Unmarked graves can make people live a life they ought not to live and the consequence, is danger.
A curse of Africa
In the minds of many Malawians was hope on that sixth day of July in 1964 when the Union Jack of Britain was lowered at the Kamuzu stadium and in its stead the black, red, green and a rising sun flag was seen dancing proudly through the Malawian, and African, beautiful blue skies. Many hoped that such an act not only symbolized and signified but actually meant the death of an old nation and the ensuing birth of a new one. Almost fifty years later, however, it appears that such a hope was a vain one.
Instead of the birth of a new nation, it looks as if it is the same old nation that was given birth to. The struggles and blood of martyrs appear to have produced no new nation. It is the same old Nyasaland only that it now is responding to a new and swankier name – Malawi. This perceived new nation is the same old one but it now parades itself as independent.
The good news though is that it not only is Malawi that clothes itself in the borrowed robes of independence. The whole of Africa parades in the borrowed robes. It is the entire Africa that never changed in terms of being controlled when the myth called independence was granted unto them. Call it, a curse of Africa.
Paul Kagame highway road in Lilongwe was named better. Being named after a man who does not mince words is something. The man whose name was given to the road is one who tells it as it always is. He is one whose words are never in possession of fear of the western powers. In an interview with the BBC in 2009 on why his country’s relationship with France was sour then, the Rwandese president said without a connotation of apprehension: ‘France was involved in the ugly history of our country, and we say it openly…’
And, the ugly history of Rwanda stretches no further than the 1994 genocide. France, according to president Kagame, was involved in that never to be erased genocide. So strange that France, which is very far away from Rwanda, should be associated very directly with the shocking history of Rwanda.
The sharp, creative and factual camera of the movie Hotel Rwanda adds another culprit to the genocide, Belgium – Rwanda’s colonial master and France’s neighbor. Another shocking, strange, unbelievable and just indescribable revelation this had to be but, it is not. Even the assertion that France was involved in the Rwanda genocide is neither odd nor unusual. That is just plain reality as is the fact that the ghosts of the colonial masters still haunt the African continent. The ghost, nevertheless, does not only prove its power and dominance in conflicts but all sectors of life and very crucially, the economy.
The economy of Africa is driven and controlled by the West. Minerals, elsewhere but Africa, define a country’s economy. Agriculture in Africa can be a backbone of a country’s economy but not the head. It is always the colonial masters who will control, and even manipulate, the economy of Africa. They will always establish structures and institutions so that they hide behind them to still control Africa’s economy. Others, the many, prefer to call it neo-colonialism as though there is a difference with colonialism itself.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) – say the colonizers – still bar African countries from subsidizing their key economic sectors, agriculture therein. The astounding thing, and inhuman too like colonialism, is that themselves – rich as their people are – offer subsidies. While it is true that subsidies do somehow negatively affect the economy, it also is true that with proper management the results of subsidy might also be moving and impressive, and make, not just help, Africa grow. Growth, and, is what Africa needs now.
Mozambique is the closest neighbor to Malawi. Some major tribes in Malawi trace their origins in Mozambique. One can oddly talk about Malawi without mentioning Mozambique. The picture when one travels on official business from Malawi to Mozambique or vis-a-vis, however, is not that perfect. It is one blurred and dirtied by paints of ‘incommunication’.
Mozambique has Portuguese as their official language whilst Malawi was forced to possess English as our ‘Portuguese’. Communication then ceases. Yet, it is communication that is vital in business of any kind. With no communication between the two countries, it means no business. The countries, as usual, can always trade but the concern should be on the emerging businesses of the common people.
Pretending to care for Africa very much, the colonialists introduced aid. They have institutions and organizations dedicated to their ‘good’ cause. They preach, and make Africa believe, that aid is the only way out of poverty. Better enough for them, much of Africa seems to believe that and it accepts their aid with suppressed questions.
Aid then awards them authority to tell Africa what it needs, not Africa saying what it wants. Through aid they tell nations to extend already existing highways when the rural areas, where raw materials for African industries are produced, are inaccessible. Africa, unfortunately, seems to not understand that aid is just another way of being controlled.
Not aid but trade
Africa needs the West to develop, to move out of poverty. But, it does not need them as patrons other than partners. That is why Africa does not need aid if it is to develop but needs trade. The West must learn to trade with Africa honestly and openly.
The West must be invited to invest in Africa, not just get raw materials. Countries that get uranium from Kayelekera must come in this country and do whatever they want to do with their uranium in this nation, use it for the production of electricity on one part. With that, they will not only offer employment to the unemployed many but also pay some tax to the nation or, in brief, they will help Malawi grow.
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It makes little, if any, sense that the West should be in the forefront of buying raw materials but be afraid of producing their goods from the same countries they buy from or be afraid of buying finished products from them. Is it not time that the West stop buying tobacco leaf for the purposes of producing cigarettes but other purposes and start buying cigars from Nyasa manufacturing company?
It is not only investment that will be a catalyst for trade. The issue of tariffs is one also that the West must face together with the Africans. The West must lower, or just scrap off completely, the tariffs they impose on African goods going into their countries. They know, better than us, that we are poor. Thus, it is no sin for them to come up with measures to deliberately promote African trade. After all, is it not a fact that they developed at our expense: from the time of slave trade, colonialism and neo-colonialism (read: colonialism)?
While it is true that it is trade that Africa needs to develop, the West must also learn to engage Africans in dialogue any time they plan to offer aid, real aid it must be, to the African nations. It is through constant well-meaning dialogues that Africa can be helped out of poverty.
This is the only time, as “the IMF director Lagarde [is visiting] Malawi to assess economic reforms in impoverished nation”, to quote Fox News as well as the Washingtonpost, that I have passionately wished I was the government mouthpiece, Moses Kunkuyu.
I would have told the nation that as we would send Christine Lagarde to the haunted Sanjika to face the ghosts which made Moya wa Muntharika invite those Catholic exorcists; the same ghosts which continue to bind Malawi in jars of colonialism a dozen decades after the 1959 state of emergency despite Kamuzu declaring 'Kwacha!!!' Then, I would as well tell her that:
"As the government of Malawi, we have agreed that the take home message for Lagarde , IMF, the West, the colonialists and their investors interested in Africa and Malawi is to accept the fact that it is high time they help Africa solve the problems they created, by moving according to our terms and conditions because we are the one with the gold; and the man with the gold, sets the rules.
Otherwise, anything they may do to Africa may just be a lie and a mockery to the African people. A kind of ghost still haunting the continent."
Dave Mankhokwe Namusanya + 265 999 697 873 P.O. Box 80007 Blantyre 8. Malawi.