A group of Malawians under the auspices of the Lost History Foundation, have petitioned the USA’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The petition which has been filed on 24th November 2018, concerns the CIA’s refusal to disclose and release or produce some materials (documents and/or information) pertaining to Masauko Chipembere pursuant to USA’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
This follows a formal request which was made on the 15th April 2017 by a Malawian based in United Kingdom called Charles Luhanga for records under the custody of the CIA pertaining to Masauko Chipembere whose life story and struggles against Dr. Banda regime remain scanty and yet important for Malawi in as far as truth, closure, and inspiration are concerned.
In response to this request by Charles Luhanga, a year later 14th August 2018, the CIA released a redacted version of information while withholding some additional and critical documents on Masauko Chipembere.
Against this backdrop, with the conviction that disclosure of the redacted and withheld record on Masauko Chipembere is vital to illuminate the direction of the public policy debates for sustainable future of Malawi as one nation, Charles Luhanga has been joined by other Malawians at home and across the world to appeal against the CIA’s response in this regard.
Among these are university lecturers and students, activists, politicians, journalists, entrepreneurs, educators, sports legends, lawyers such as Hon. Khwauli Msiska, Chris Bulakwacha, Cuthbert Kachale, Undule Mwakasungula, Bruno Matumbi, Conleith Selenje, Villant Jana, Chrishna Atchutani, Anold Chikhawo Phiri among others.
The petitioners believe that the CIA’s decision to withhold the information on Masauko Chipembere sits on the way of Malawi’s present and future national interests.
“The withholding of records forecloses the doors the Congress (USA) widely opened for the world to learn the truth about the brutalization Malawians faced in order to encourage reconciliation. More importantly, the denial prevents Malawians from setting realistic long term goals that strengthen the nation’s nascent democracy”, reads part of the petition.
In an interview with Paliani Chinguwo a representative of the Lost History Foundation which coordinated the petitioning process, the Lost History Foundation and the rest of the petitioners believe that the withheld information, if released by the CIA, will significantly contribute to more knowledge and appreciation of the Malawi’s history, help Malawians reconcile their past with the present, and then be able to design for themselves a more realistic and peaceful future having drawn good lessons from the past following the exposure of truth and reconciliation that is predicated on actual facts, part of which, are under the CIA’s control as the gatekeeper of information.
“Whatever final decision the CIA may take on this petition, there is still another remedy we may consider pursuing for us to finally access this critical information. We may possibly instruct our lawyers who are already based in USA to open a case at the USA Federal Court for judicial review and determination in this regard”, Paliani Chinguwo added.
Dr. Joseph Mandala and Dr. David Stagner based in USA are the two attorneys who were engaged to represent Charles Luhanga, the Lost History Foundation and the rest of the petitioners in this case.
Henry Masauko Blasius Chipembere (5 August 1930 – 24 September 1975) was a Malawian nationalist who played a significant role in the struggle for independence of Nyasaland (now Malawi). He was part of the cabinet that Dr Banda formed in 1964 prior to independence day on 6th July.
In September 1964, Masauko Chipembere parted ways (alongside other cabinet ministers) with Dr. Banda during the cabinet crisis of 1964. In February 1965, he led an abortive armed coup against Dr. Banda government from his home district of Mangochi. A couple of weeks later, under the clandestine collaboration between the CIA and Malawi’s security forces with approval of Dr. Banda himself, Masauko Chipembere was smuggled out of Malawi to USA where he studied, lectured and later died.