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From Russia with love

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With Steve Dakalira

I know from the title alone, others have already pictured Sean Connery starring in that second in a series of James Bond movies but sorry to disappoint you folks, this entry has got nothing to do with movies nor 007. News in town is that Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika is among a group of African leaders who have been shipped to Sochi (not to be confused with our very own Soche in Blantyre) in Russia for the first of its kind Russia-Africa Summit. We understand 43 heads of State or government have made the trip, of the 54 African countries represented.

I know that we have not been exposed much to Russia as a country and as a people, and unfortunately, even the Western media has not done a great job in reflecting the likes of Russia in good light. Let us face it. Even in the movies I referred to earlier, the common characters depicted of Russians are those of villains.

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But that is not to say that there is little to learn from Moscow. Their economy is largely driven by exports of oil and gas and took quite some transformation as initially it had been devastated by the industrial and agricultural sector. With Malawi’s energy sector struggling day in, day out, this might be the opportune time to explore how energy matters have been handled in that country and, where need be, adopt the strategies they employed which seemed to have paid dividends.

Now, much as we are all excited over the prospects that lie ahead in as far as our ‘interaction’ with Moscow is concerned, we also need to do a balancing act in so far as our relations with the West is concerned because it is no secret that the relationship between Western countries and Russia has for long been brittle; hence, if we are not careful with our movements, we might end up muddying the waters between Lilongwe and the West and a shaky relationship is the last thing we need with our wobbly economy which has, time and again, had to rely on that helping hand from the Bretton Woods institutions to bring it back in line.

Chuki ya nini (hate for what?)!

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Do not be fooled by the loosely translated Swahili above, which I managed to extract from a Tanzanian colleague, who explained to me as we listened to Les Wanyika’s song that hot summer day. He impressed upon me that the other chap was wondering why they were fighting when each one of them has got their own wife at home.

Hang on a minute! This is no time to be learning Swahili…I just found myself recalling this track following developments in the course of the week in Rumphi where chieftaincy wrangles pitied two clans against each other.

We are told that following the death of Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe in November last year, his son Mtima Gondwe, who was crowned king on Tuesday under controversial circumstances, had been warming the seat. It has not been smooth sailing, however, as another camp, led by one Bongololo Gondwe, had been laying claim to the throne, arguing that Bongololo was the heir to the throne on the basis that the Paramount Chikulamayembe chieftaincy is supposed to rotate among 12 clans.

Be that as it may but what we witnessed was nothing short of a combination of sheer comedy and drama as the two sides tussled against each other and the fissures were more prevalent when it came to announcing the dates for the annual Tumbuka festival called Gonapamuhanya. While the two sides kept giving conflicting signals, Bongololo and colleagues decided to turn to the courts. They obtained an injunction against the holding of Gonapamuhanya until the outstanding issues were addressed.

Lo and behold! Bongololo and his team were then hit below the belt as Mtima Gondwe’s camp, with the aid of government which had recognised Mtima Gondwe as the rightful heir, quietly and secretly organised the coronation ceremony which saw Mtima Gondwe ascending to the throne. In the words of District Commissioner Fred Movete, Mtima commanded the respect of 11 clans which he claims was not the case with Bongololo Gondwe. What resulted was a script that has now become far too familiar with our country; disorder, because Bongololo’s camp opted to camp at Bolero and Rumphi Stadium while another delegation besieged the DC’s premises, with an intention to disturb the planned coronation of Mtima Gondwe.

The bottom line is that we should have long found a formula with which to deal with these chieftaincy wrangles because, believe you me, it will be the same next time in another area with another clan. There was no need to be sneaky about it as witnessed in the Paramount Chikulamayembe crowning and before somebody lift their hand again to attack the other they should ask themselves; chuki ya nini?

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