What Malawi's Youth Think About Independence Day
Malawi is a historic country united by the stories of slavery, colonialism, freedom, power, independence, and, most recently, a liberated political system known as democracy.
Today, Malawi celebrates and recognises over 56 years of 'independence' since colonialism broke loose in 1964.
We were once under British rule and became the first country to achieve independence as a member of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe).
The road to freedom was long and difficult, which is why we commemorate Martyrs Day to remember and honour our forefathers and brothers who fought valiantly for the liberties we enjoy today.
Because someone believed that a free Malawi was possible, we are the country we are today: free and in possession of our own rights.
Malawians, on the other hand, believe that there is still much more to be fought for than what is to be celebrated.
With reference to the rise in corruption and self-centred politics, greed, and a lack of patriotism, Malawi's youth, who make up more than a quarter of the population, had something to say about independence day.
Hellen Mpira (29), a business development officer, believes Malawi's road to independence was a major milestone.
"I honestly don't know where I would be today if the country hadn't gained independence. I'm not sure if I would have become the person I am or if I would have become all swelled up out of fear, "Mpira claims.
She concludes, however, that as a nation, we have mismanaged our independence, and the situation has gotten worse over time.
"I'm not sure where we went wrong, but there's a lot that could have been handled better to make this Independence Day worth celebrating. When I look at my country, I wonder if we were truly prepared to run things on our own," she says.
Lloyd Chitsulo is a Malawian-based journalist who has also expressed his own views on Malawi's independence.
"Well, independence day for me simply means celebrating the freedom we attained back in 1964," says Chitsulo.
"However, despite achieving freedom back then, we are still not that liberated, which is why I feel independence day celebrations mean nothing."
"For example, we are still donor dependent-we still rely on donors to help us, whether it's in our National Budgets or the smallest thing, and the help these donors render to us is always tied to something, it doesn't come free, so we're technically free on paper but not practically," he says.
Chitsulo added that this could be a good time for the country to reflect on its progress, as independence is still a long way off due to some obvious limitations.
Sarai Nkata (not her real name) is a Political Science student at the University of Malawi who believes Malawian politics leave much to be desired.
She states: "We have given the entire world reason to believe that we are an incompetent country, and our corrupt and self-serving political system is entirely responsible for that demeaning narrative. There are some great people who fought tirelessly for this country's independence, but it appears that all we have to show for it is corruption, greed, and primitiveness; the leaders we so 'freely' and willingly elect into power are only here to win it for themselves, not the poor majority who are in desperate need of selfless leadership."
Angry at what she sees as a corrupt political system, Nkata believes the country should be doing better politically because there is so much talk of freedom and liberation when, in reality, Malawians remain enslaved and unaware of their power and potential due to a lack of strong leadership.
She says: "Independence Day is a day when I sit down and consider how I can best contribute to my country as a young person because I know that my country needs more young, empowered, and visionary people like me. I use Independence Day to delve deeper into my history and consider how we, as young people, can best emulate the brave people who fought for our country, Malawi."
The powerful views of these young people give me hope that Malawi is standing on the solid ground of visionary young men and women who want what brave heroes like John Chilembwe wanted for Malawi.
In terms of Malawi's history, Arthur Chipembere is another young person who has provided his own analysis of Malawi's history and how our current political and economic woes are directly related to how our history has been presented to us by others. Chipembere believes Malawi's history is insufficient, which hinders the country's progress.
"The problem with Malawi's history is that most of the history we are told as youth is tainted, and because of that, I believe, a tainted past does not give a full picture of where we were in order for us to understand where we are going," Chipembere said.
Because of a lack of prior knowledge, today's youth are somewhat disoriented. Our history as Malawians is in some ways insufficient because we don't appear to have a fully painted picture of our truth as Malawians.
But it is clear that we are not independent as a country, and we are on the verge of becoming dependent on loans; money that is not ours, as a result of our lack of strong leadership and decision-making.
And, as a result of our country's current economic crisis, we are now forced to give up our freedom and financial independence in order to be dependent on another country, which will have a long-term impact on our freedom.
"Our freedom of choice, our freedom of expression, and our freedom of success."
Malawi has been independent for 58 years. Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, the country's first president, ruled under the Malawi Congress Party. Most of the information we have about our history is provided by specific individuals, which I believe can be easily manipulated.
That data is a blank canvas that can be shaped to fit a specific image that may or may not be authentic.
We must understand the pain and suffering endured by Malawians during colonial times, as well as the experiences of our forefathers under various regimes prior to independence.
We need to know their mistakes so that we can fix and reflect on our mistakes today in order to make better decisions and become a better Malawi.
(By Sumeya Issa. This story first appeared on Africa Brief < https://africabrief.substack.com/p/what-malawis-youth-think-about independence?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email>