REFLECTION: Is Truth & Reconciliation for Malawi Still Relevant?

MALAWI NEEDS A TRUTH & RECONCILIATION COMMISSION.

By Dr. Rev. Felix Nyika.

I found myself in a very unique position last Saturday when I participated in opposition leader Dr Lazarus Chakwera’s prayers for the nation in the morning at Crossroads Hotel and a memorial seminar for the 36th anniversary commemoration of the assassination of Socialist League of Malawi chairman Dr Attati Mpakati in the afternoon at Crown Hotel.

My brother Pr Sean Kampondeni asked me on Friday night to say the opening prayer at the Chakwera meeting. I agreed because it was Sean though in the back of my mind I was wary about seeming to be quite partisan in the either/or political arena that Malawi is. Anyway, I got there and, during the brief before the meeting started, I was asked to pray for Dr Chakwera after Rev Mthiko of the CCAP.

The section on repentance was highlighted by Dr Chakwera repenting for the sins of the MCP during the one-party rule. This was followed by Mr Lester Chikoya accepting the apology/repentance on behalf of all who suffered under MCP rule.

But it was during Rev Custom Mwale’s (Livingstonia Synod) repentance prayer in Tumbuka that I just felt the Holy Spirit saying to me that that prayer in that northern language was exactly what Malawi needed. It symbolized the bridging together of ethnicities that fragmented Malawi so desperately needs. When it came time for me to pray for Dr Chakwera, I just felt the Lord laying on my heart to say that God had called him to stand for truth and reconciliation in this fragmented nation and that’s why he had moved him from the church sanctuary into the political public space. Please don’t misread this to be some prophetic claim that MCP will win the elections or my endorsement of MCP. Simply, it’s to say that Dr Chakwera’s call is to help bring about the reconciliation the nation needs in whatever capacity that shall be.

Fast forward another two hours to Crown Hotel where the Lost History Foundation was hosting the memorial seminar. There were two presentations by Mr Balakasi and Ambassador Kapote Mwakasungura then the floor was opened for discussion. Getting very perplexed by my earlier experience and the realization that I was in the middle of a rare opportunity to be privy to two seemingly polar opposite groups, I asked what the exiles and ex-detainees thought forgiveness and reconciliation ought to look like especially in light of the prayer of repentance and apology offered by the MCP President.

I could feel the temperature rising in that room. One visibly angry gentleman, who had been part of Dr Mpakati’s security detail, said that apology smacked of politicking as it was said during a campaign period. He also rubbished the program “Tiuzeni Zoona” on national broadcaster MBC as part of campaigning gimmicks wondering why those MCP atrocities were only being highlighted by the government in this general elections year. Another gentleman spoke of how you can’t ask for forgiveness from your brother without being specific about the wrongs you committed. Another said the best platform for such forgiveness is to meet face-to-face. All in all, they all echoed the fact that Malawi can’t move forward without such forgiveness.

This is, of course, is a very delicate and emotional topic for us Malawians and so I was pleasantly surprised by this whole episode because of the willingness to apologize repeatedly by the MCP president (this is one of several times he has done so) and also the willingness by the exiles and ex-detainees to sit down and extend forgiveness.

I came out of that Saturday more convinced than ever that we as a society, and not just politicians, should work towards a truth and reconciliation commission. As long as we don’t deal with the truth, we will always have those amongst us who feel wronged and the demons of oppression will roam freely with impunity; as long as we are not reconciled, we will always be a weak amalgamation of regional ethnicities that can never develop into the mature nation that millions of young Malawians need to thrive.

We need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Malawi.