MindSet: Rethinking martyhood


 “We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” I have a Dream speech, Martin Luther King Jr.

When Martin Luther King Jnr. was delivering the famous I Have a Dream Speech in Washington DC on 28 August 1963, his eyes were focused on the future of America. He was later to be a martyr for freedom. Many decades after his assassination, America finally has a black president in the name of Barack Obama. If the soul of the revered reverend has to look at the trend, definitely it will be filled with excitement that the struggle he spearheaded alongside many other black civil rights activists like Malcolm X has not been in vain.

Just as America has had a huge share of martyrs for freedom, so too is Malawi. The history of the liberation of the country from colonialism and even autocratic regime cannot be complete if it alienates the role that martyrs played in shaping the democratic destiny that we attained. It is imperative however that we realise that the heroic activities that led to their deaths were meant to serve only a single purpose: developing the motherland. If we are falling back on development, if we are wasting much time with corruption, fraud, and all evils that impinge on socio-economic development of the country, certainly, knowingly or not, we render the martyrs heroic acts of valueless.


51 years later after gaining independence over half of the population of our country live on less than USS$ 2 a day, our mothers walk long distances to access water, access to health facilities is beyond reach of millions. Four governments later, we are still challenged to develop our country in line with the vision of our beloved martyrs. The emancipation of our country from colonialism and dictatorship cannot be highly appreciated if the majority of our people continue to be sadly crippled by abject poverty, political immaturity bordering on settling personal scores than addressing issues that can lead to development, and development of myopic programmes to appease political followers or opponents. 51 years later while sitting on a vast land of wealth that is so fertile but also harboring essential minerals that can speed the country’s economic emancipation, we are yet to utilize the potential we have for the benefit of the masses. The dream of the martyrs is miles away from being fulfilled in totality.

When those who lived to ensure that future generations live a better Malawi decided to take up arms or oppose ideologies that were retrogressive in the development agenda of the country were martyred they were like signing a promissory note for the country, blessing us with the mandate to carry over their vision for the benefit of the citizens of the country.

Suffice so to say, the raising of the national flag in the name of independence was not in itself an end to the freedom that our forefathers craved for. The struggle was basically meant to ensure that the liberation of the country brings with it food on the tables of people, social, economic and academic development, create jobs for generations present then and those to come. Even the attainment of democracy was not only meant to provide us a license to speak anything in the name of freedom of expression, it was meant to empower us to speak developmental issues, strategies for economic growth and poverty alleviation. Unfortunately, we have wasted much time on political propaganda. At best, we have been mediocre in implementing strategies for economic growth. If the souls of our heroic martyrs have to take a look at deliberations in the national assembly, they will feel ashamed that honourables elected to address the needs of the people do easily, and with little remorse, turn the august house into a kindergarten where they have a license to speak any language with the privilege of not being prosecuted. That actually taking place when the masses they represent go on empty bellies.


We have, as a nation, a mandate to carry on with the dream of our heroes and heroines of the country who lost their lives for a cause: freedom for the people of their motherland. The onus is on us now to liberate our brothers and sisters from the bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, corruption, fraud and other evils. As Africa’s political icon Nelson Mandela said in his inaugural address, so too we can say on our own soil, let there be justice for all, let there be peace for all, let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. There is no better means to thank our distinguished martyrs than to further the dreams that led to their premature deaths.

On this Chilembwe day let us reflect with a vision for the future the lives of Reverend John Chilembwe, John Grey Kufa, Chinyama and many other renowned and unrenowned martyrs who sacrificed their lives for a better Malawi.

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