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What a missed opportunity!

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With George Kasakula:

The country on Saturday, July 6 celebrated 55 years of independence since the British packed their bags and left Malawi, then called Nyasaland.

The path to self-rule was littered with a bitter struggle led by founding president the late Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda and others.

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The celebrations were in Blantyre starting with prayers at College of Medicine and, later in the afternoon it was the turn of Kamuzu Stadium to host military parades, dances and, finally, a football match involving perennial rivals Nyasa Big Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers.

Then the time came for speeches. With the background that it is over a month since the May 21 elections and the country has experienced reverberations since the results of the polls were released on May 27 by Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Chairperson Dr Jane Ansah, President Peter Mutharika talked tough.

Commenting on the post-election violence that has engulfed the country, Mutharika said over his dead body will those that are demonstrating take over government in this country and that force will be met with force.

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The President was obviously reacting to the demonstrations on Thursday and Friday with Lilongwe as the epicentre and spreading to other places such as Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu which, again, saw record crowds seen since 2011 protests against the then president the late Bingu wa Mutharika.

Sadly, this time, we saw destruction of government property such as office of district commissioner in Karonga, Chibavi Police Unit and offices housing Lands and Prison offices in Mzuzu as well as the house of former minister of Sports Grace Chiumia among others.

Malawi is truly at a crossroads and those that love peace should truly fear for the future.

The freedom fighters who risked their lives and, some indeed lost it, were envisioning a better independent Malawi where all would be free to meet their aspirations.

They wanted a country where Malawians would raise families that have access to medical care, food, education and other services that allow them to live a dignified life.

But what we have on the ground is the contrary. We have failed to build on the foundation the forefathers set for a better Malawi, where all have access to basic amenities, as the majority of people in both rural and urban areas are still living under gnashing poverty.

There are still families in both rural and urban areas which cannot afford three square meals per day, have no access to basic amenities and die of curable diseases as agriculture which they relied upon to earn a living is a shadow of its former self and nobody wants to fix it.

Since the dawn of multiparty democracy, the country has been sliding into further abyss that all agree that we are now poorer that we were in 1964 and all world indices of poverty attest to that.

President Peter Mutharika said the same thing in 2014 before he became president.

Simply put, we, as a nation, can do better to build a prosperous nation other than the one we have at the moment where the majority of people live in debilitating poverty.

These yearly independence celebrations have done no good to the country because they are not an opportunity for an honest national reflection and introspection of the national conscience to determine where we went wrong and no one should be left out.

On the contrary, they are discriminatory in nature and always an affair of the party in power, with those in opposition so sidelined that there is a perennial annual story that the media will always write saying opposition leaders have not been invited and so they are not part of the programme.

If the opposition leaders show up for whatever reason, then they must endure violence and other indignities as if they were less Malawian than those who consider themselves to be governing.

When everything is said and done, independence celebrations amount to nothing but a pure waste of money and time for this divided nation.

But this year we needed the independence celebrations to help us build the nation more than ever before as we are in a crisis after the May 21 elections. What happened was so different that, in the end, it was a purely the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) affair where the President talked of his dead body and meeting his political enemies on the ground with his mantra being force to be met by force.

These are hardly ingredients for nation-building and probably the President should think seriously about the pieces of advice he might be receiving from those that surround him, which is certainly against him reaching out to his political enemies.

Meanwhile, while our leaders are avoiding each other and digging in into their positions, Malawi is burning, literally, over election-related protests over the continuing stay in office of Ansah for flunking the management of the May 21 elections.

There is destruction of government property and fire in Blantyre, Lilongwe, Karonga and Mzuzu among other places.

There is anger among the majority of the population (62 percent) who did not vote for the President and feel left out in the running of this country as the winner takes all mentality gets entrenched in those who won.

There is a court case raging in Lilongwe as Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM are challenging the President’s win, citing massive irregularities.

Then there were pro-Ansah demonstrations this week in Blantyre and DPP victory parade yesterday in the same city.

All this is causing tension in the country and business has slowed down so much that we are seeing our country being ripped apart in daylight.

Much as there is a legal solution being sought by MCP and UTM, this is a political crisis caused by politicians and, in the name of unity and nation-building, speeches such as the one made by the President at Kamuzu Stadium cannot help this cause at all as Malawi is at a crossroads and needs fixing.

Elections have happened in this country and disputes have arisen but politicians, after a bitter campaign and results, were able to reach out to each other since multiparty democracy was re-introduced in 1994.

Former president Dr Bakili Muluzi was so good at it that he virtually worked with all his adversaries that included Gwan them all sorts of names during a bitter campaign.

He was doing all this because he knew what was important was not him personally but nation-building for this country.

The just-ended independence celebrations were a scandal and have helped nothing towards a quest of nation-building that this country badly needs at this juncture.

What a missed opportunity!

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