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A country for us all

Life is going to be tough for the members of that tribal thing—Mulhalko wa Alomwe—which had usurped all the political power, gotten all the top positions, won all the juicy business contracts and suddenly had all the clout in Malawi.

Everywhere you turned—in government, the police, MRA, immigration, the judiciary, the ACB, the central bank—top positions seemed to be a preserve of this ethnic group which, coincidentally, the president belonged to and was its brazen patron.

If you ask its members, they will attempt to hoodwink you into believing that it was all just a noble Lomwe culture preservation group. They will enter into a frenzied plea about how culturally enriching this thing was and vehemently deny that, for the years that one of their own was state president, its members became political and business bullies.

Admirable as cultural preservation may sound, whoever tells you that it's all Mulhalko wa Alomwe was about would be talking horse manure because we all know the truth.

The truth is that once you became an ensconced member of this group, you assumed an air of superiority in much the same manner Adolf Hitler's Aryan people believed they were a chosen race.

That meant that you could be arrogant, ignore court orders, bully banks into lending you billions, steal land from orphans, plunder from the national treasury, built obscene swimming pools in your backyard with taxpayer's money, be mendacious and immoral and get away with it because you were Mulhako. But that's not the sort of society I want to live in and it doesn't seem to be the sort of society you would want to either.

So what this Mulhako thing bred was the disease of cronyism and tolerance of corruption by the powerfully connected folk which was a travesty to anything of our culture. The corruption within the top brass of this tribal grouping is said to have reached shameful proportions. Yet no-one saw the president raising his fist in protest to admonish these people. But a leader who hesitates to punish a miscreant colleague is morally and politically weak and has no business being in that position.

Quite often, some of this reached the media but to the dismay of enterprising investigative journalists, the offenders rushed to garnish the stories from publication by way of court injunctions.

We all should take collective responsibility for the manner we let one man almost run this country into the ground but to be brutally honest Mulhalko wa Alomwe is one singular group that is more culpable than most.

For mere reasons of tribal connection, they deliberately glossed over the fatal flaws in the president's character as a leader—they abetted his intolerance of dissent, they applauded his ruthless reaction to adversity and they ululated at his single-minded determination to have his way.

Each year they had this big, expensive jamboree in Thyolo and its members were pictured on TV drinking themselves senseless, eating large chunks of meat and being entertained by scantily dressed teenage girls, some of this at taxpayers' expense.

This group frittered away hard-earned tax money not on schools, hospitals or medicines but on lavish ceremonies knowing fully well they wouldn't be questioned because they held all the aces.

Apart from wondering whose money actually financed this mega shindig, the lingering questions about the true intentions of this tribal gathering never really went away.

Last year, I watched the Mulhako festival on TV and one of the speakers was a typical sloganeering demagogue spouting ethnic invective. The attitude he presented was mendacious and domineering and essentially told the rest of us that Lomwe was the boss in town and if you didn't like it, you might as well migrate to another country.

The problem was where do you go? You were lucky if you were a Malawian holding a British passport because then you could leave this misery to go and live anywhere within the European community without too much of a hassle.

Or if you had the dosh you could escape to Bora Bora in Tahiti, which is a very agreeable place to go and live for the rest of your life. The women are mostly beautiful and they dance gorgeously like goddesses, the food is good, the weather is gracious, they make good wines and they don't care if you are Mulhako or not.

But if you were a normal hard-working Malawian trying to do the best for yourself and your family and didn't have the means to migrate, then you were almost certainly stuffed.

Mulhalko wa Alomwe was probably a good idea when it started but the problem is that its members became business and political bullies—some of them were clearly in it to milk as much as possible out of the system.

In the aftermath of our political change, there has to be a war against this sort of blatant tribalism. It ought to start with lessons on redefining what it is to be Malawian—humble but assertive, self-critical but with huge reservoirs of tolerance for others, honest, hard-working, with an acute awareness of your rights. Being Malawian means giving everyone equal opportunity, regardless of where the accident of birth placed them on conception and delivery. So it has to be that we are all Malawian first and everything else later.

It is unprofitable here to speculate on how far Malawi would have come had we not wasted time and resources on this cultural self-flagellation which our leader tried to foist on us. But history will record that Bingu wa Mutharika did more to fan the flames of ethnic tension in this country than any other leader we have ever had.

Had we continued on this path the imponderable prospect, of course, would have been an implosion of ethnic hatred as we raced towards elections in 2014.

And as we have seen elsewhere on this continent setting one tribe upon another is a sure way to a bloody outcome of political and economic abyss.

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