MALAWI/GHANA DIPLOMATIC ROW AMIDST SILOMBELA’S EXECUTION.

Medson Silombela was a lieutenant of former cabinet minister Masauko Chipembere who had commanded an abortive armed coup against Dr. Kamuzu Banda’s government on 12th February 1965 following the cabinet crisis of 1964. 

According to a book by Prof. Colin Baker (2001) Revolt of the Ministers, by end of May 1965, while Masauko Chipembere himself had already been smuggled out of the country to USA by Malawi’s state security organs in collaboration with foreign intelligence agencies, all generals of Masauko Chipembere’s armed group: Author Chipembere (Massauko’s brother), Matola Mtiesa and George Ndomondo were in police custody. The only person of importance still on the run, was Medson Silombela.

Silombela continued to wage a guerrilla warfare against Dr. Kamuzu Banda regime and it took six months until November 1965 to finally pin him down. Silombela was swiftly tried and sentenced to death. Dr. Kamuzu Banda issued a decree that Silombela’s execution should be in public.

In reaction to this, on 10 January 1966, President of Ghana Dr. Kwameh Nkrumah wrote a letter of compassion to Dr. Kamuzu Banda followed by a visit to Dr. Kamuzu Banda by Ghana’s High Commissioner in Malawi T.K Owusu carrying Dr. Kwameh Nkrumah’s message pleading clemency for Silombela. Silombela was nevertheless hanged on 1st February 1966.

On 16th February 1966, Dr Kamuzu Banda wrote to Dr. Kwameh Nkrumah requesting the immediate closure of Ghana’s mission in Malawi. It is unlikely that Dr. Kwameh Nkrumah read this letter as he was on a state visit to China and while still abroad, on 24th February 1966, he was overthrown by a military junta.

On 20th February 1966, Dr. Kamuzu Banda announced his decision to abruptly shut down the Malawi High Commission in Ghana. As grounds for this, he cited the “urgent need to restrict government expenditure and the present shortage of trained personnel for Malawi posts abroad.”

Sarcastically, Dr. Kamuzu Banda chose the 6th of March 1966, Ghana’s Independence day, to officially mark the end of diplomatic relations between Ghana and Malawi.

Barely four weeks later, on 23rd March 1966, Dr Kamuzu Banda accorded a colourful reception to the Ghanaian Mission deployed by the new military regime. The members of the Ghanaian Mission included: Sir Arku Korsah the former Chief Justice and leader of the Mission, Mr Joe Appiah former member of Ghanaian opposition and Major General Out a senior member of the Ghanaian armed forces.

The new military regime in Ghana had dispatched several missions to African and European countries immediately after the overthrow of Dr. Kwameh Nkrumah’s administration.

Feedback: p.chinguwo@historyofmalawi.com