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Subject: FYI: Democracy in Malawi: Ex-Pres. Banda's Apology

Date:           Wed, 17 Jan 1996
From:           Mel Page

As we consider the issues related to democratization in Africa, there are occasional documents which deserve (I believe) our interest and analysis. One of these is the following.

Issued on January 4, 1996 in the name of H. Kamuzu Banda the former President of Malawi, this was indeed to be an apology to the people of his nation. It comes after the nearly 100-year-old former physician and political leader was accquitted of charges of ordering the murder of several politicians.

The text is as follows:

Bwanas and Donas, we are faced with yet another brand new year and let me start by wishing His Excellency Bakili Muluzi, personally, his government and the people of Malawi a happy and prosperous year.

Systems of government are dynamic and they are bound to change in accordance with the wishes of and aspirations of the people. In Malawi in the early sixties we had a multiparty system of government which later changed to a single party system of government. The one party system of government was not unique to our country alone. However, what was unique about Malawi was the peaceful transition from a single party system to a pluralistic system of government.

This achievement would only have been a dream if it was not for the political maturity and tolerance of those in opposition and those of us who were in government at that time.

The achievement of a peaceful transition would be meaningless if the system that has been put in place does not meet the expectation of the people. Therefore, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that the system put in place works.

During my term of office, I selflessly dedicated myself to the good cause of Mother Malawi in the fight against Poverty, Ignorance and Disease among many other issues; but if within the process, those who worked in my government or through false pretence in my name or indeed unknowingly by me, pain and suffering was caused to anybody in this country in the name of nationhood, I offer my sincere apologies. I also appeal for a spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness amongst us all.

Our beautiful country has been nicknamed `The Warm Heart of Africa' and we have been admired for our warmth and spirit of hardwork. This admiration calls not only for a need for us to look at our past and present and draw lessons from it, but there is even a greater need for us to look forward to the future in our endeavours to reconstruct and reconcile if we have to move forward at all.

Thank you Bwanas and Donas.

I present this text *not* to endorse it, but to make it more widely available for thoughtful analysis. It has already been roundly attacked by many both in and outside of Malawi as disingenuous and self-serving. Others have raised doubts that it is truly the statement of Banda himself, given his precarious health (and his failure to appear in court personally to face the charges levied against him).

Comments on this document and the issues it raises would be welcome. Others may wish to put forward similar short documents for our consideration.

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