Thursday, September 25, 2014

Malawi : Whither Secession or Federation

During my secondary school days, i discovered the art of reading books. I came across a collection of 130 novels by different African authors under the banner Pacesetters. Most of the stories' themes ranged from love, rags to riches (sometimes back to rags), war and poverty. One civil war that featured highly in these easy to read novels was the secession of a South Eastern Nigerian State of Biafra. From 30 May 1967 to 15 January 1970, Odumegwu Ojukwu led the Republic of Biafra after successful de-linking the state from the parent Nigeria. What followed was a two and a half year civil war which only ended with the Biafra State getting back to Nigeria.

I have followed with keen interest the calls by some Malawians to change the current Malawi setup and adopt a federation system. Some have even gone a step further by calling for secession of the Northern Region of Malawi. The last time i checked we still had freedom of expression in a democratic country. These people have every right to voice out their opinions on the issues of federation and secession. It will be even better if a healthy debate (even a referendum) is called to reach out to make people whose voice cannot be heard in the current setup.

However i suggest that all parties should sober up and conduct a healthy debate. In my research on the two topics, i have come up with two countries that can give us a good lesson on both federation and secession. Canada and Nigeria The city of Quebec and the state of Biafra can provide us with great case studies for our debates. Nigeria and Canada have both the federation and have all fought secession for a long time. We can learn both the peaceful means of secession, the violent way of secession and co-existence of the states in a federal setup.

From the research i have been conducting, the regions calling for federation will not benefit much from the federal system of government. In a federal state, there is still a central government that runs the government. The federal governments will still be accountable to the central government. So if the leaders in the central government are bent towards one region, they will still be in control of affairs.

The only way a region can champion its own development agenda is secession. There are strong calls for secession from my region, the north. However there is no known movement on the ground that can champion the secession campaign. Secession is creating a new nation like what South Sudan did. It is a completely new government in a region, state, city or area. In the Malawi case, if the north secedes, (which is doubtful), it will have its own central government. Its own parliament and it will not get any support from Malawi. In cases like Biafra, the parent nation can force a blockade to the new nation if the secession was not properly agreed. A blockade on Biafra and the civil war are what failed the new nation to succeed.

My take is that much as secession will guarantee development to the north (assuming the leaders have the welfare of people at heart), we have not exhausted all the ways possible to bring development to the north. The biggest challenge is the tribalism that has taken root in most institutions in Malawi. We can blame the current government for driving a nepotism agenda but show me which government would have done differently. Almost all the major parties that competed on May 20, 21 and 22 elections are backed by regions and tribes. The north is crying foul now because it has no major force to usher it into power in the coming elections. However, we have a lot of northerners in the decision making positions who can influence change in the way elections are conducted.

Tribalism is Africa's common problem and it is a major cause of under development. However behind this tribalism problem is illiteracy. Our people lack basic knowledge of things. One can argue that there are more educated Africans who also practice tribalism. We have a bigger problem in our hands which cannot only be solved by seceding or making Malawi a federal state. I would suggest that we do the following:

1. Rewrite the constitution to address all the loopholes
2. Consult widely on the best electoral system and adopt it
3. Invest in Education
4. Create equal job and investment opportunities for all