History Of Malawi

The Arrest of Chakufwa Chihana on 6th April 1992.


Chihana addressing the press on 6 April 1992 in Johannesburg just before he started off to Lilongwe to be arrested.

According to official records, Chakufwa Chihana, then working as the General Secretary of Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) based in Lilongwe, left Malawi for Zambia on 3rd March 1992.  Two days earlier, he had been detained for interrogation at the Police Station in Lilongwe for few hours.

It was while he was in Zambia that the Catholic Bishops issued the pastoral letter in Malawi on 8th March 1992.

During his visit to Zambia, Chakufwa Chihana attended a pro-Democracy Conference in Lusaka from 20-23 March 1992 which was organized by the exiled Malawians where he delivered a key note address entitled Prospects for Democracy in Malawi.

In his key note address, he criticized the despotic regime of Dr. Kamuzu Banda

The immediate history of our country shows the gross abuse of basic human rights, growing poverty and mass starvation, personalized rule and total tyranny by the leadership that brought independence to Malawi.

One of the resolutions of the conference was a recommendation for Chakufwa Chihana to return to Malawi and organize a national conference of political formations within the country.

However, following some disagreements emanating from the conference deliberations, Chakufwa Chihana and a few others went ahead with a parallel initiative to form Interim Committee for Democratic Alliance (ICDA) chaired by Chakufwa Chihana. Two months later, ICDA became to be known as Alliance for Democracy (AFORD).

Just before leaving Johannesburg for Lilongwe on 6th April 1992 on his way from Lusaka, Chakufwa Chihana held a press conference on the struggle against Dr. Kamuzu Banda regime at which he introduced the ICDA and categorically disassociated its formation from the deliberations at the Lusaka Conference.

The Police arrested Chakufwa Chihana at the tarmac of the Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe as he was about to read out his address which contained the following lines:

For the past 30 years, we have been denied freedoms which so many other nations have taken for granted. We have been denied our right to elect a government and leaders of our choice. We have been intimidated and victimized. We must now say ‘enough is emough’. We demand to join other free nations of this world.

He was found in possession of a number of documents including the following:

  1. Call for all churches  to speak out against human rights abuse in Malawi;
  2. Malawi: Prospects for Democracy- Key note address at the conference in Lusaka;
  3. Address by Chakufwa Chihana on His Return to Malawi on 6th April 1992 at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe;
  4. Draft Resolutions of the Conference on Prospects for Democracy in Malawi.

The state’s position was that these documents were seditious and so their importation and possession were therefore unlawful.

Chakufwa Chihana was kept in police custody until he was tried and convicted of sedition by the High Court in Blantyre on 14 December 1992. On 29th March 1993, the Supreme Court reduced his two year sentence to nine months. He was released on the 13th June 1993 a day before the referendum.

Feedback: p.chinguwo@historyofmalawi.com

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