Friday, May 28, 2010

Zipping up loose barrels: Malawi fights proliferation of small arms, armed violence

Just a tiny hole, the barrel of a conventional firearm; but the wrath
of its ‘vomit’ bears a risk now global in nature.
They are favoured for their portable size. So easy to hide, too. But,
all over the world, the resultant death or injuries are there for all
to behold.
And the dead are almost ‘lucky’ because they will not be there to live
with the pain. Others are less ‘fortunate’; they live to endure the
loss of their loved ones, or live with wounds, mutilated bodies,
makeshift organs, and a past that talks in cold blood or bullet
It is a reality that makes Undule Mwakasungula, Centre for Human
Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) executive director so sick he buries
his head in his bushless hands.
He wishes he could hide, and hide in the jungle of peace.
“Peace, the peace we have and often take for granted is the greatest
capital for development. It applies everywhere in the world, and
Malawi is no exception,” he ventures. “Gun violence is threatening
this (peace).”
Mwakasungula has been there, at the biggest stage, having attended
global meetings against gun violence initiated by the International
Action Network on Small Arms (Iansa).
He says, more than any other time in history, the world needs an
urgent solution to tackle gun violence.
In a way, he blames it on history. It has failed to live up to the
commonest human view that it (history) represents progress- that long,
upward struggle of humanity to master nature and achieve well being.
It is a brief that has rested, for thousands of years, on our faith in
reason, and in science and technology.
Two World Wars, because of the little ‘stick’ called gun, shook our
faith in reason, prompting us to bank on science and technology. These
have certainly bettered the human lot; but they seem, also, to carry
some seeds of despair and destruction.
“It is technology that has given way to advanced small arms and
conventional weapons, all the while these weapons are becoming ever
smaller, rendering detection almost impossible. Our own achievements
are turning against us, and it’s all because we have generally failed
to tally scientific and technological advancements with global
requirements to be transparent and accountable,” says Mwakasungula.
Ten years ago, the human rights activist’s sentiments would have made
more sense. Now, they sound analogous to conducting a parents’
memorial service during the seventh anniversary of your own wedding.
Why? Some seven years ago, the world woke up to the reality that the
proliferation of small arms and light weapons was getting out of hand,
with many weapons being found in wrong hands: the custody of armed
robbers, rebels, fuming husbands, ranting wives, and innocent
“No matter what purpose one uses a firearm for, it may breed death.
Human beings have learned, over the years, to account for death. That
is why we have the likes of Dr. Charles Dzamalala to carry out
autopsies. They give us reason for death. That question ‘why?’ can be
nerve wrecking in life,” says Edward Chaka.
He wonders why arms’ manufacturers are not held accountable for the
needless deaths or injuries their products inflict on innocent global
citizens. Surely, there must be a way of holding them accountable, and
counting the cost of their ‘expertise’.
Chaka is the executive director for People’s Federation for National
Peace and Development (PEFENAP), one of the three Malawian
organisations, alongside CHRR and the Centre for Conflict Resolution
and Women Development Affairs (CECOWDA), spearheading the battle
against gun violence in Malawi.
In 2003, 153 United Nations member states, including Malawi, voted at
the UN General Assembly for a resolution on establishing an Arms Trade
Treaty (ATT), a comprehensive plan of action aimed at nipping small
arms and conventional weapons’ proliferation in the bud.
But, even at that high level, it was largely a men’s world; the world
of the mighty gun.
That is why the coming in of CECOWDA, a pro-women organization,
changes the face of the gun- the way people look at it, and the
martial jacket we adorn it with. For a long time, people associated
the gun with men, thinking, even, that the gun would in real life have
beards and a cold face.
Things are now changing, beginning with United Nations Security
Council Resolutions, specifically Resolution 1325 and 1820. These
purport that there is “No security without women’s security”, and that
efforts aimed at protecting women would go along way in preventing
incidences of gun violence.
Iansa has seen sense in this, also, and is asking governments to
develop strong National Action Plans ( NAPs) on Women, Peace and
Security as required by UN Security Council Resolution 1325.
This year, the resolution will be ten years old, with all-year events
organized throughout the world to commemorate this. Governments such
as Malawi are expected to formulate effective NAPs.
The Ministry of Gender ‘will’ play a crucial role in this. Patricia
Kaliati, minister responsible, is, however, displeased with the
employment of the word ‘will’ in the above sentence, and says
government is already doing some commendable work.
‘Will’ does not exist because things are already happening, Kaliati argues.
It may not be related to small arms and light weapons, specifically,
but nothing that has to be done has been left undone. Kaliati says her
ministry has amplified the battle against women abuse by initiating
the formulation of various draft bills and strategies. She has ready
“As part of our efforts to reduce violence against women, we want to
tackle the none-violent practices that may spill into armed violence.
Practices such as polygamy, rape, defilement, wife battering- which
we are tackling now- may promote armed violence against women in
future, so we are dealing with the psychological things first, before
we deal with the tangible things.”
Kaliati says, even when faced with hardcore detractors and critics,
the battle will not stall.
“This is time for action; idle time, which was during the other
administration, is gone. We are committed to protecting women from all
forms of violence, including the use of threats, arms and knives,” she
Even with all these assurances, one thing that comes more clearly is
the fact that it is the end users who are the target: the angry
husband, trigger-happy robber, among others. Where are the
manufacturers of small arms and light weapons in this equation?
“Certainly, somewhere so good and peaceful. They may be chatting with
their wives, husbands, children, relatives, workmates, busy making
merry with their friends, or even sleeping. But you can lest be
assured that they have peace wherever they are. The problem is that
these people are not held accountable for aiding war crimes and
serious violations of human rights,” says Chaka.
Chaka rushes to say, however, that that is where the issue of ATT
comes in; it is there to hold these people accountable for aiding war
crimes, armed robberies, in the process perpetuating poverty,
corruption, armed conflict and organized crime.
The other problem, says CECOWDA executive director Caroline Mvalo, is
that it is women who bear the brunt of all these. She even suggests
that most of the crimes the world says are ‘crimes against humanity’
are, in fact, crimes against women first, before the gangrene spreads
to other vulnerable sectors of society.
“Violence, almost always, starts from the weakest link, which are
women and children. It is our hope that the ATT will help solve this.
We really need a change in approach, and the way weapons’ transfers
take place, and how they land in ‘wrong’ hands. Someone must be held
accountable at the top of the table,” says Mvalo.
The good news is that United Nations and Iansa reports indicate that
the ATT process has surged forward since June 2009’ s Global Week of
Action against Gun Violence and Arms Control Campaign, which revolved
around the UN First Committee in October last year. In December 2009,
Malawi was among the 153 states that voted in the UN General Assembly
for a resolution that establishes a 2012 UN Conference on the ATT,
where the draft treaty text will be negotiated and finalized.
Even more important is the decision by UN member states to transform
the planned four weeks of the Open-Ended Working Group in 2010 and
2011 into preparatory committees (PreComs) to help develop the text.
In February this year, representatives from over 60 NGOs gathered at
the Vienna Conference of NGOs and agreed to expand their programmatic
areas. These now include promoting consultations with community
members (People’s Treaty), advocating for a comprehensive definition
of the scope of the ATT and the adoption of ethical principles and
robust rules based on acceptable international standards.
NGOs are also expected to press their governments to follow up with
requisite action on the outcomes of the Armed Violence and Development
meeting held in Oslo from April 21-22 2009, before they (world
governments, including Malawi) meet for the UN Programme of Action on
Small Arms (PoA) from July 14-18 this year.
The venue will be New York, United States of America. Meeting name:
PoA Biennial Meeting of States.
“It could as well define peace for us and our children; peace for the
future,” is, perhaps, Mvalo’s expectation of hope for the next world.
The next best world.

Malawi faces the music after gays' imprisonment

Malawi is a nation in defense gear. Following the conviction and subsequent sentencing to 14 years of professed gays, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, Malawi is now under pressure from cooperation partners to reverse the decision and pardon the two.
The US, Britain, Norway The Netherlands and, early this week, Global Fund, have been on government's neck, trying to pump sense into Capital Hill's thick neck that the two's imprisonment will reverse the fight against HIV and AIDS among gays.
The argument is that Malawian gays and lesbians will now shun ARV treatment, let alone the opportunity to get condoms from medical institutions, in fear of possible arrest.
That is the impression one gets from Richard Ligdon, a South African lawyer based in Malawi and many other donors.
But government spokesperson, Reckford Thoto, has asked the donors to shut up, saying Malawi is a sovereign state, though it continued to walk with a begging bowl some 45 years after independence.
Traditional leaders such as Inkosi ya Makosi Mbelwa have also backed government, saying Chimbalanga and Monjeza are trying to corrupt the country's morals by bringing 'strange behaviour'.
But Malawi Gay Rights Movement Spokesperson, Wongani James Phiri, has backed the donors, asking them to freeze aid until Malawi begins to respect human rights.
"Malawi is a jungle right now; there is no respect for human rights," said Phiri.

Imprisoned Malawian gays sick, vomiting profusely

Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, Malawian gays last Friday sentenced to 14 years IHL, rae now so sick, just a week after starting serving their jail terms.
Monjeza and Chimbalanga have since Saturday been vomiting profusely, but are yet to be taken to hospital.
Monjeza revealed to Malawi Today's sister blog, (Zachimalawi), that they have been failing to walk and eat properly.
"May be it is fatigue, but we are so sick. People here are also mocking us. We have become Malawi's most recent 'fools' it seems, looking at the way people have been treating us. But we are no criminals," said Monjeza.
He said all they needed now was 'urgent medical treatment'.
"We want to, one day, come out of prison and be free to do what we are naturally inclined to do; a free Malawi for all," said Monjeza.
All along, Monjeza has been the shy one, as opposed to his 'wife' Tiwonge.
Tiwonge gives no porridge about people, and goes about wriggling his waist.
No more, he s so sick now.
There has been no medical confirmation about their condition, but, last week, they were also reported to be sick.

A message to all members of International Institute for ICT Journalism

A RENOWNED Ghanaian International research scientist, Dr Kwabena
Riverson , has been appointed Chairman of the International Institute
for Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) Journalism
(Penplusbytes). Penplusbytes was established on July 18, 2001 and has
over the nine years of its existence, grown into a large network of
over 600 journalists in 35 countries across the globe.

As a leader in developing ICT journalism and also ensuring its
commitment to improve ICT journalism, PenPlusBytes undertakes both
face-to-face and online training of journalists on cutting edge, new
media technologies and contemporary ICT issues.

A statement issued by PenPlusBytes said Dr Riverson, who is the
team leader for the Enterprise & Institutional Repository and
Digital Library Projects at CSIR where he is currently working to forge
international collaboration in Information Management Research projects
and also sits on the board on NTHC (USA) Ltd. and UIQ Services Ltd.

It named other board members as Ethan Zuckerman, USA; Charity
Binka, Ghana; Gregg Zachary, USA; Kwami Ahiabenu, Ghana; Bryan Pearson,
UK; Dan Gillmor, USA, with Andrew Kwesi Kafe, Ghana as secretary to the

The statement quoted Dr Riverson as pledging his commitment to
ensure that “PenPlusBytes achieves its vision of driving excellence in
ICT journalism”.

Visit International Institute for ICT Journalism at:

News from the Fresh Air Fund: Need For Host Families This Summer

Your gift of $24 becomes $48, good for TWO round-trip bus tickets from NYC to camp.

Make a gift before June 30th – and two inner-city children's lives will be changed forever!

The Countdown to Summer 2010 is on and The Fresh Air Fund is in need of host families. If you or someone you know is able to host, please sign up now.

In 2009, The Fresh Air Fund's Volunteer Host Family program, called Friendly Town, gave close to 5,000 New York City boys and girls, ages six to 18, free summer experiences in the country and the suburbs. Volunteer host families shared their friendship and homes FOR up to two weeks or more in 13 Northeastern states from Virginia to Maine and Canada.

The Fresh Air Fund relies on donations to provide memorable summers to NYC children.

The Fresh Air Fund needs hosts for the summer of 2010.

More than 65% of all Fresh Air children are reinvited to stay with their host family, year after year.

Thanks to host families who open up their homes for a few weeks each summer, children growing up in New York City’s toughest neighborhoods have experienced the joys of Fresh Air experiences.

Fresh Air Fund Host Families

"It is rewarding to see the smile on our Fresh Air child's face as she enjoys the simple things we take for granted..."

Friendly Town host families are volunteers who live in the suburbs or small town communities. Host families range in size, ethnicity and background, but share the desire to open their hearts and homes to give city children an experience they will never forget. Hosts say the Fresh Air experience is as enriching for their own families, as it is for the inner-city children. There are no financial requirements for hosting a child.It should be Volunteers may request the age-group and gender of the Fresh Air youngster they would like to host for up to two weeks. Stories about real Fresh Air host families and their New York City visitors are just a click away!

Click here to learn more about becoming a host or call (800) 367-0003!
Fresh Air Children
"We made s'mores and hot dogs over the fire. I've never cooked outside before!"

Fresh Air children are boys and girls, six to 18 years old, who live in New York City. Children on first-time visits are six to 12 years old and stay for either one or two weeks. Youngsters who are re-invited by the same family may continue with The Fund through age 18, and many enjoy longer summertime visits, year after year. A visit to the home of a warm and loving volunteer host family can make all the difference in the world to an inner-city child. All it takes to create lifelong memories is laughing in the sunshine and making new friends.

The majority of Fresh Air children are from low-income communities. These are often families without the resources to send their children on summer vacations. Most inner-city youngsters grow up in towering apartment buildings without large, open outdoor play spaces. Concrete playgrounds cannot replace the freedom of running barefoot through the grass or riding bikes down country lanes.

Fresh Air children are registered by more than 90 participating social service and community organizations located in disadvantaged neighborhoods in the five boroughs of New York City. These community-based agencies are in close contact with children in need of summer experiences in rural and suburban areas. Each agency is responsible for registering children for the program.

What do Fresh Air children enjoy?

* Playing in the backyard
* Laughing in the sunshine
* Catching fireflies
* Riding bicycles
* Learning to swim
* Running barefoot through the grass
* Gazing at the stars on moonlit nights
* Building sandcastles
* Making new friends
* Simple pleasures of life away from the inner-city

Learn how two weeks can change a child's life forever.


You can give a child the experience of a
lifetime with your gift to The Fresh Air Fund!

Every year, The Fresh Air Fund gives thousands of inner-city children the priceless gift of fun – and opens the door to a lifetime of opportunities.

Whether it's a two-week trip to visit a volunteer host family, or a fun-filled and educational stay at one of our camps, our programs make for unforgettable memories – and open a world of new friendships and fresh possibilities.

We are a not-for-profit agency and depend on tax-deductible donations from people like you to keep our vital programs flourishing.

Donate online now

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NYC Half Marathon

Congratulations to our 2010 Fresh Air Fund-Racers who ran in the NYC Half-Marathon and

raised $100,000 for Fund programs! On March 21st, the Fresh Air Fund-Racers joined 15,000 other runners and thousands of fans on the 13.1-mile course through the streets of Manhattan. Thank you to our dedicated Fund-Racers who worked incredibly hard to both train and fundraise for The Fresh Air Fund. The race wouldn't have been the same without their smiling faces on

the course!

If you'd like to donate to our half-marathon team, please visit

of if you have any questions about the race, please email or call (212) 897-8890. We're recruiting for our 2011 team! Join us today!

Over the past four years as a NY Road Runners charity partner for the NYC Half-Marathon, our 325 Fund-Racers have raised close to $400,000 for The Fresh Air Fund!

About The Fresh Air Fund

THE FRESH AIR FUND, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877. Nearly 10,000 New York City children enjoy free Fresh Air Fund programs annually. In 2008, close to 5,000 children visited volunteer host families in suburbs and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada. 3,000 children also attended five Fresh Air camps on a 2,300-acre site in Fishkill, New York. The Fund’s year-round camping program serves an additional 2,000 young people each year.

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In Zimbabwe, Daily News is on the way back

By a CPJ Guest Blogger
Armed riot police and security officers guard the entrance to The Daily News after it was shut down in 2003. It may soon reopen. (AP)
Armed riot police and security officers guard the entrance to The Daily News after it was shut down in 2003. It may soon reopen. (AP)
Zimbabwe’s beleaguered independent media won a major victory when an official commission granted publishing licenses to four daily newspapers, including The Daily News, the nation’s leading paper before it was outlawed seven years ago. The news was greeted with cheers from independent journalists, who have endured years of repression, arrest, and violence at the hands of Zimbabwe’s authoritarian government. Daily News Editor Geoff Nyarota said the decision was good news as he rushed into a meeting to organize the paper’s staff. The Daily News was the nation’s most popular paper before its printing presses were bombed by suspected government agents and it was then officially banned.

Nyarota, a past winner of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award, returned from exile a few months ago to relaunch the paper after Zimbabwe’s iron-fisted ruler, Robert Mugabe, was forced into a coalition government with longtime rival Morgan Tsvangirai.

In addition to The Daily News license, the Zimbabwe Media Commission granted licenses to NewsDay, which is owned by the South African Mail & Guardian group, and a daily version of The Financial Gazette, which has links to Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party. A little-known new paper called The Mail also won the right to publish.

The commission, which acted after months of foot-dragging, said Wednesday that The Daily News and the other papers could hit the streets anytime, effectively ending the nation's seven-year ban on independent dailies.

On the streets of Harare, readers welcomed the easing of the media blackout.

“It’s good, now we can get the truth every day,” said Tendai Muparanga, riding to work in a packed minibus. “Competition is good.” Tossing aside a copy of the state-run Herald newspaper, taxi driver Farai Mutasa said the propaganda organ could never survive a real battle for readership. He predicted the paper, which is packed with fawning stories about Mugabe and his cronies, would soon go the way of the Zimbabwe dollar, which was abolished after the country was wracked by hyperinflation.

“No one will ever buy this again,” Mutasa said. “They will die for sure. We will use it only to pad our seats.”

Press freedom activists cautiously welcomed the move, while warning that the government could reverse it if the papers are deemed too critical. Zimbabwe still has no independent TV or radio stations, and repressive laws limiting free speech and requiring journalists to register with government agents remain on the books.

The decision came more than a year after Mugabe and Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change inked a coalition deal that was supposed to quickly end the government’s stranglehold on the media. Instead of simply allowing the independent papers to publish, the government insisted that a commission would have to be established to vet applications.

The Zimbabwe Media Commission was finally appointed several months ago after months of wrangling and horse trading between Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and Tsvangirai’s MDC. Instead of moving quickly to license the new papers, the commission raised a series of smokescreens and side issues to justify seemingly endless delays. It initially said it had no funds to operate. When foreign donors offered to fund its operations directly, it refused, claiming that the money would have to be funneled through ZANU-PF-controlled Information Ministry.

State-run papers last weekend quoted ZANU-PF heavyweights who claimed that the funding offer exposed a “foreign hand” behind the independent dailies, without offering any evidence of such a link. The state press also attacked Tsvangirai for trying to get the commission to explain the endless delays, saying such a move would constitute unconstitutional interference in the Media Commission’s activities.

That was a laughable claim coming from Mugabe’s allies, who regularly summon state media editors to parrot their propaganda claims and demand favorable coverage of ZANU-PF politicians. Mugabe’s handpicked election commission presided over his violence-tainted re-election in 2008, which foreign and African observers branded a fraud.

The shenanigans came as no surprise to press freedom advocates in Zimbabwe, who have watched in dismay as the promises of the coalition government fell by the wayside. Repressive laws remain on the books, despite occasional claims from leaders of both political parties that they might be watered down.

Government spokesmen and women regularly denounce so-called pirate radio stations that broadcast from outside the country, even though they have been denied the right to operate in Zimbabwe. Officials still refuse to open the airways to private TV or community radio stations.

Godfrey Majonga, a former anchorman for state-run ZBC television, chairs the Media Commission. It includes several government figures like ZANU-PF mouthpiece Chris Mutsvangwa. Incredibly, its day-to-day administration is run by Tafataona Mahoso, the propaganda chief who oversaw the banning of The Daily News and the implementation of repressive press laws.

The author, reporting from Zimbabwe, is not being identified for security reasons

Link to Guardian article on Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza

Guardian article on Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga- Before the sentence

Case could become test for emerging gay rights lobby where homosexuality is illegal in 37 African countries

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* David Smith
o David Smith in Johannesburg and Godfrey Mapondera in Blantyre
o, Friday 14 May 2010 18.30 BST
o Article history

Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga before appearing at a magistrate court in Blantyre

Steven Monjeza (left) and Tiwonge Chimbalanga have told gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of their defiance. Photograph: Eldson Chagara/Reuters

A man whose same-sex "marriage" has become a symbol of the struggle for gay rights in Africa has vowed to become a martyr rather than give in to homophobia, campaigners say. Tiwonge Chimbalanga and his partner Steven Monjeza are facing a possible 14 years in prison with hard labour after becoming the first gay couple in Malawi to declare their commitment in a public ceremony .

Peter Tatchell, the veteran British gay rights campaigner, has maintained contact with the pair at the maximum security Chichiri prison in Blantyre as they prepare to stand trial next week.

Tatchell told the Guardian he received a defiant message from Chimbalanga that said: "I love Steven so much. If people or the world cannot give me the chance and freedom to continue living with him as my lover, then I am better off to die here in prison. Freedom without him is useless and meaningless."

Tatchell, of the rights group Outrage!, also quoted Monjeza – who is described as thin and weak with jaundiced eyes – as saying: "We have come a long way and even if our family relatives are not happy, I will never stop loving Tiwonge."

Chimbalanga, 20, and Monjeza, 26, made history when they committed to marriage at a symbolic ceremony last December – the first same-sex couple to do so in the southern African state, where homosexual acts are illegal.

Two days later, the couple were arrested at their home. Facing taunts and jeers, Chimbalanga, wearing a woman's blouse, and Monjeza appeared in court to answer three charges of unnatural practices between males and gross indecency. They were denied bail, supposedly for their own safety, and have been forced to endure dire conditions in jail.

The couple are due back in court on Tuesday, when magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa will deliver his verdict. Angry residents and relatives from Machinjiri township, on the outskirts of Blantyre, say they will not allow them to return home if they are set free.

"They have given this township a bad name," said Maikolo Phiri, a local vendor.

Zione Monjeza, an aunt of Monjeza, said: "We as a family have been terribly embarrassed to be associated with this gay thing. It's a curse and a big shame. We will chase them away if they are freed."

Nchiteni Monjeza, Monjeza's uncle, said: "I won't drop a tear if they are jailed – they deserve it."

But for others, the couple are social revolutionaries in this impoverished, landlocked nation that usually makes headlines only when someone like Madonna flies in.

Homosexuality has an Orwellian invisibility in Malawi, where gay rights and transgender activism was not merely suppressed but virtually non-existent. Yet Chimbalanga told the New York Times in February: "I have male genitals, but inside I am a complete woman. Maybe I cannot give birth to a child, but I menstruate every month – or most months – and I can do any household chores a woman can do."

Some have now been emboldened to speak out. George Thindwa, head of the Association for Secular Humanism, said: "The gay movement is gaining ground. The country should simply accept gays."

A retired economist, Thindwa, who has not openly declared whether he is gay, added: "We are giving them moral support by bringing them food, money and clothes to prison." Thindwa's group has joined the Centre for the Development of the People, which is financing the couple's defence. The case could be seen as a test case for the struggle between gay rights movements and resistant conservative sentiment across the continent.

Gay sex is still illegal in 37 countries in Africa. A recent poll by the Pew Research Centre found that 98% of people in Cameroon, Kenya and Zambia disapprove of homosexuality. But encouraged by legal advances in South Africa, a new wave of activist movements are making a stand and pushing the boundaries in Kenya, Ghana, Malawi, Zimbabwe and other countries in ways unthinkable a generation ago. Gay and lesbian lifestyles are also much more visible.

This assertiveness is apparently being met by a ferocious backlash from religious fundamentalists and politicians determined to preserve the status quo. It has been described as a proxy war between US liberals and Christian evangelicals, both of which pour in funding and support to further their cause.

Uganda has become a central battlefield after legislation was proposed last year advocating punishments for gay sex that range from life imprisonment to the death penalty. The country has come under intense pressure from activists both inside Uganda and overseas.

It emerged last week that a special committee organised by president Yoweri Museveni has recommended that the bill be withdrawn. That would be a important victory for organisations such as Freedom and Roam Uganda (Farug) and Sexual Minorities Uganda (Smug).

Val Kalende of Farug, which was set up in 2003, said: "I believe that now is the season and time for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in the continent. The LGBT rights movement has grown and it has come to a point where people can no longer be silent about injustices."

Asked if the gay rights lobby is resulting in a surge of homophobia, Kalende added: "Yes. Long before we built a movement here, no one bothered about us. We got away with so many things. When we decided to come out and claim our space, society came harshly against us.

"This implies that we are stepping on people's toes. People hate to see us free and that's why oppression of LGBT people is on the rise. One of the indicators of a progressive social movement is when its enemies start organising against it."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Book Review: 'I'- The Making of a Serial Killer


TITLE: ‘I’: The Making of a Serial Killer
REVIEWER: Richard Chirombo
AUTHOR: Jack Olsen
PUBLISHER: St. Martin’s Press
GENRE: Non-Fiction

‘I’: The Making of a Serial Killer’ is a real-life story about a child, Keith Hunter Jesperson, who claims to have been physically and emotionally abused by his father, Leslie, and, because of the alleged abuse, turns out to be a serial killer. He targets women, mostly commercial sex workers, and murders nine within a five-year period spanning from January 1990 to 1995. A self-confessed follower of a TV programme by Perry Mason, which offers advice on how to build an alibi (behaviour that aid in distorting evidence and building up convincing evidence to the contrary), Keith manages to get away with hic crimes, until after the ninth murder because he decides to abandon all cautionary rules about building an alibi.

Keith is telling his own story throughout the book, though author Jack Olsen also comes in, as he tries to unmask and offer some insight into the making of serial killers- from childhood to the time a seemingly innocent individual begins to kill and savour the experience. He evaluates Keith’s background, present behaviour and expert advice on serial killers and psychopaths as a way of introducing each preceding sub-theme. One of the most compelling aspects of the book is how Keith manages to keep his voice cold and humorous as he narrates, in gruesome fashion, how he murdered the nine women by strangulation. The only instance he changes tone is when he refers to his father, on whom he levels accusations of ill-treatment and cruelty. Keith accuses Leslie of favouring his brothers and other family members to the extent that, when the author interviews Keith’s father and is shown a love poem Leslie wrote for his way-ward son during his baby-sitting days, and refers to the times the father hugged the son before going to bed, Keith is infuriated, to the point of holding back tears. He says:

I hugged my dog everyday, but I never hugged by father and mother. And they didn’t hug me or my brothers or my sisters. I never thought about this one way or the other. It’s just the way we were. In our family, nobody hugged, except me and my dog.”

Otherwise, he talks about death as one talks about an enjoyable experience and makes fun of his victims’ ordeals. It could be said, for good reason, that the plain, detached manner in which Keith recounts how he raped the women several times on end before choking them, and how he could resuscitate them and play ‘death games’ with them, arouses that common natural reaction in us: anger. He even suggests that he could kill more, given the opportunity. Naturally, one is inclined to sympathize with the victims and their families. Throughout, we see Keith becoming the key figure, playing the leading role in his own dramatic production.

Keith’s murders take place in two United States of America states. These are Oregon and California. More than the later, Oregon is very crucial a place in the story because it is where he committed his first murder, the murder of Taunja Bennett in January 1990. Finally, he is convicted and sentenced to life Imprisonment with Hard Labour and goes back to Oregon State Penitentiary to serve his stacked-up sentences. As inmate number 11620304, he will become eligible for parole on March 1, 2063, a month before his 108th birthday. Oregon is also a place of his educational failures, failing to make it to university because of poor class performance. He holds both US and Canadian citizenship, visiting the later occasionally in the course of his life.

The book starts on a symbolic note when the author notes in the prologue that the weather on the day of Taunja Bennett’s murder was chilly, which, coincidentally, happens to bore Keith to the bone and influences him to go outdoors where he meets Taunja at B&I Tavern. But before that, we learn that the victim kissed her mum, Loretta, ‘good-bye’ a sure symbol of farewell in the last mile of her life. She, actually, never saw mum again. Lately, the twenty-three-year-old high school dropout had been listening repeatedly to ‘Back to Life’ by Soul 11 Soul, and carried a black purse.

Almost all of the action in Jack Olsen’s book takes place in three places: (a) On the road between Oregon and California as Keith, a truck driver, goes about his work of loading and delivering goods (b) At home, in Oregon, during his childhood days, and where he faces various forms of maltreatment, and (c) At Oregon State Penitentiary, where the convict is to spend the rest of his life. These changes in venue have a bearing on mood, but help us understand the behaviour of serial killers. Quotes from psychologists also build well for the story, equating Keith’s sentiments and behaviour with empirical evidence.

The book is premised on conflict between father and son, indecisiveness over matters that could cost one a life time in prison, and a litany of problems for the chief character, Keith, who is forced to move from alleged parental abuse (though his father emphatically denies it, while at the same time implying that it was the way most parents raised up their children then) to broken marriages. His divorce to wife Rose Pernick goes ahead despite stiff opposition from his father. Keith says he divorced because he wanted to defy his father and show him that he could now effect his own decisions, an apparent sign of that ongoing conflict. Keith’s dislike of his father started at a tender age, which culminates into maltreatment of both him and sister Shalon. This is apparent when the son recounts how, one day, he asked the father how he (Keith) could tell if their electrified fence was on.

He told him to “piss on it” and “I felt the shock in my balls. But he just stood there, laughing”. Keith goes on to say that his father then went on to ask Sharon to touch the electric fence when she was very young. He laughed at her, too. At one time, Jesperson senior demanded that all kids be paying monthly rentals for staying in their father’s house, but it was only Keith he was collecting from. When the unsuspecting son discovered the plot, his father merely told him to get over it because it was a learning experience. This alleged maltreatment then forces Keith to turn to his dog, Duke, for friendship. However, even the dog is shot dead by the father without the son’s knowledge.

The book also thrives on dilemma, the many times Keith could not make a decision, or follow up on one made earlier. For instance, when he decides to kill Jean, a woman with a six-month old baby, he changes his mind because the baby cried. Yet, this was after he had tried thrice to break Jean’s neck. In the end, he lets her go scot-free, dropping her at a truck stop he had earlier found her. The woman later reports to police and Keith is arrested. Five times in the book, Keith regrets ever leaving Jean arrive, and calls it his first life mistake. Keith was also in dilemma after killing Taunja Bennett. In January 1991, while in Portland, Oregon, between truck hauls, he watched on TV a couple arrested for her murder. These were 57 year-old Laverne Pavlinac and 39 year-old John Sosnovske, with Laverne leading police officers to the place she had dumped the body of Taunja (exactly the same place Keith dumped the body). Keith did not believe it. Neither was he sure about letting the cat out of the bag and risk arrest, nor continuing to enjoy his freedom. There are also times he contemplates committing suicide but abandons the idea for fear that he may put his father‘s name to shame. At one time, he contemplated taking 20 sleeping pills but abandoned the idea in favour of getting arrested. The main dilemma, though, happens when he kills his ninth victim, former girl friend Julie Winningham at Troutdale, Oregon. He could not make up his mind on where to dump the body, along the road or downhill, where nobody could see it. In the end, he defies his gut feeling to take it downhill, and leaves it along the road. This reads to his arrest, and subsequent conviction. Over and over, he mules over that decision, wishing he acted on his gut feeling. At the same time, he says he was tired of killing and wanted to be arrested.

The main problem, though, is that Keith cannot stop killing. The second is that he wants to get Pavlinac and Sosnovske out of prison; they have already served four of their 13 year jail terms. He feels angry that the couple is getting all the publicity when it was supposed to be him basking in the limelight for Taunja’s murder. The other problem/dilemma is that of Oregon police and court officials who do not want to admit that they made a big mistake and arrested innocent people instead of Keith, the self-confessed killer of Taunja. Though Keith provides all evidence and takes the officials to the place where he dumped the body, the officials quickly dismiss his claims. It raises questions about law enforcement and judicial officers, while the officers concerned want to maintain a public image that they carried out their work diligently. Yet a resolute Keith is set to shame them, which creates tension and suspense, keeping the reader on the edge.

However, one cannot help but question the extent of personal hatred between Pavlinac and Sosnovske, to the point of incriminating herself into the murder of Taunja simply to get Sosnovske behind bars. Though she later tries to get out of the trap, the officials cannot believe her. She and Sosnovske’s lawyers thus quickly agree to a guilty plea for the two to get away with a light sentence. They get 13 years IHL in return. Olsen’s writing technique to include expert advice and arrange his sub-themes in chronological order helps in keeping the reader interested from beginning to end. Throughout the book, we see the names of Keith, Leslie Jesperson, Brad (Keith’s brother), Taunja Bennett, Julie Winningham feature prominently. They are the millionaire’s cabbage around which the story is woven.

Finally, Keith makes a difficult decision and decides to confess to Detective Rick Buckner that he killed Taunja. Keith makes another decision to write to his elder brother Brad and confess that he was a serial killer. When he sends the letter, Brad takes it to his father who tells him to submit to police as evidence. When Keith is arrested and decides to advice Brad to destroy the letter, it is tool late.

In the end, we see Keith triumphing because, though he is jailed for life, he manages to get away with a life sentence instead of a death sentence. After all he did, a life sentence is too minimal a sentence. This is evident in sentiments raised by one of Julie Winningham’s sisters. Joane Faria told reporters she would try to withhold tears for her sister until the killer was put to death.

No matter what my sister did in life, there was no reason for what he did. This monster makes a joke out of murdering somebody. He shows no remorse.

Worse still, Keith goes on rampage showing contempt for authority by granting media interviews from Oregon State Penitentiary purporting that he killed more than nine women. Sometimes he exaggerates and puts the figure at 40 or 60, just to pump himself up. He starts an internet forum where he touts his exploits, angering the association for online publishers in the US. He also sets about creating a League of Serial Killers. To supplement his contacts, he also stays in touch with criminologists, journalists, producers, detectives, high school students, lawyers, teachers, researchers, distant relatives, doctoral candidates, celebrities and other aficionados of bloody murder. Keith also continues to sign autographs with a ‘Happy Face’ as his trademark, in the process mocking family members of his victims like Joane Faria. Another sign that Keith has triumphed is the eventual release of Pavlinac and Sosnovske, to the chagrin of police and court officials. In the end, Keith declares that he is happier in prison than he would be anywhere outside prison. He says he could not ask for more in life than the freedom he has at Oregon State Penitentiary; he even seems to enjoy the tight security he is accorded.

Keith Hunter Jesperson, Leslie Samuel Jesperson, Julie Winningham, Taunja Bennett and Peggy Jones are the main characters in while story. Support characters include John Sosnovske, Laverne Pavlinac, Sue Anna, Angela Subrize, Rose Pernick, Billy Smith, Detective Rick Buckner, Bruce Jesperson, Duke, Art Jesperson, Sharon, Jill, Gladys Bellamy Jesperson, Claudia

The book is also rich in symbols, some of which include the following features, objects and words:
1. Stolid figures of the north, in reference to the Jesperson’s domineering ancestry, represent strength
2. The term ‘permanent resident of a walled domain’ on page 36, used in reference to Keith’s incarceration, represent prison
3. The term ‘On a chill winter’ in the prologue by author Jack Olsen represents bad news
4. Zero temperatures, gale-force winds and blizzards on page 36 -in reference to the time the Jespersons moved from British Columbia to the prairies- represent tough circumstances/situations
5. Parched Prairies of Saskatchewan, also being described as the ‘Dirty Thirties’ on page 36, represent a period of less fortunes. As it turns out, the Jespersons are forced to go back to British Columbia after finding a Dustbowl famine in their new land.
6. Happy Face, used throughout half of the book, represents carefree (freedom).
7. Belt, used throughout the book in reference to his father, represents cruelty.
8. Lizards represent commercial sex workers, who are seen looking through truck windows in search of customers, mostly drivers, throughout the book.

These symbols are constant and do not change. The other notable aspect is that most of the symbols are unique to the characters’ situations, while such symbols as hugs and chilly weather, Zero temperatures, gale-force winds and blizzards, permanent resident of a walled domain and lizards are universal. They apply everywhere.

Ironic situations also abound. Cases include the time Keith learns that two people have been arrested for the murder of Taunja Bennett. He says he feels sorry for them yet he goes on to celebrate his freedom. The other case is when he lets Jean go scot-free after trying to break her neck three times; it is so ironical of a serial killer wishing to leave no trace for his crimes. We also find Keith blaming ghosts for the arrest of Laverne and Sosnovske. Though he claimed to have been no criminal, Keith acknowledges being a key follower of Perry Mason’s TV programme on how to build an alibi and conceal criminal evidence. He also gets angry at a woman, Susan Smith, who drowns her two children in a lake. Though he is a serial killer, attaching no importance to human life, he vows never to beat or harm children, including his own. Keith also says in one of his letters that he loves his father, in the same letter declaring he hates him. The killing of his own girlfriend Julie is another situational irony, as well as Julie’s decision to report Keith to the cops for rape. It is unlike courting individuals. He also accuses his father, who is not a serial killer, of turning him into a serial killer.

Keith also knows many things that other characters do not. At a tuck-shop in New Mexico, he gives a waitress a U$D65 necklace as tip. When the waiter wonders, Keith says: “Where I am going I won’t need this.” The waitress did not know what he was talking about. Again, when Julie threatens that she will allege rape, Keith tells her she does not know what she is talking about and what she is dragging herself into (death by strangulation), Julie insists she knows what she is talking about. She does not know that Keith was murdering women and she died. Keith also blows his truck horn when he passes prisons, shouting ‘I will join you guys one day’ Prison guards did not understand.
These actions influence the reader to conclude that Keith new his fate, which prompts one to read from cover to cover in a bid to follow every bit of the action. It helps in building a climax for the book.

‘I’: The Making of a Serial Killer is a well-written and comprehensively researched book that unravels one of the most incredible aspects of human behaviour: the urge to harm others without remorse, repeatedly even for a lifetime. It is written in simple language, using an easy to follow technique, and the inclusion of expert quotations turns the book into an instant resource guide into psychopath behaviour.

However, the author should have done more to get the side of Keith’s wife for another dimension to the story. The book also glorifies violence in that the main character shows no remorse for his actions. It could lead children into violence, much the same way as Perry Mason’s TV programme influenced Keith on building an alibi. In short, it teaches children and fanatics that they can harm others and get away with it; the pinnacle of anti-social behaviour. It would be better if the book was rated 18 and above as one way of safeguarding children from its violent contents.

Malawi today

Malawi could lose millions to stolen botanical patents
By Richard Chirombo
Malawi does not have a multi-purpose laboratory necessary to examine the chemical composition of most of its botanic resources, a development that has meant little knowledge about the wide variety of botanic life endemic to the country.
This renders the country vulnerable to theft of its would-be botanic patents as people posing as tourists would easily siphon indigenous knowledge from a friendly but unsuspecting people which may later be patented in their name leaving Malawi perpetually stuck in the woods of poverty.
Prof. James Seyani, General Manager for the National Herbarium and Botanic Gardens of Malawi, confirmed the development that the country did not have a state-of-the-art, all encompassing laboratory that would be used to examine all of the country’s botanic resources in a bid to deter business-minded visitors from profiteering from the country’s botanic resources.
Seyani, however, said plans were under way to establish one such laboratory, and hoped this would help deter theft-minded entrepreneurs from thieving some of the country’s endemic botanic resources.
“But, meanwhile, we would love to urge Malawians not to publicize indigenous knowledge because we need to protect it. Let us try all we can to prevent this knowledge from getting into the wrong hands- people who may protect our own botanic resources using patent laws,” said Seyani.
He said traditional knowledge was now becoming a billion Dollar phenomenon around the world and needed to be safeguarded. This is truer for Malawians who go to such countries as South Africa to sell herbal concoctions and other traditional medicine.
It would become easy for such people to pass out the knit-gritty details pertaining to the prowess of their medicine, in the process exposing Malawi to theft of its invaluable botanical resources.
Just such a thing happened in Chipata, Zambia two years ago. A European national was bewildered by a plant that acted as an anesthetic and was being used by local people when removing teeth using the traditional hand method.
Perplexed, he asked the local people how the local herb worked, and where it was found- knowledge he later took back home and has since patented the plant and its chemical components.
People, including Zambians, now find their own concoction- now out of their hands and control, anyway- in up market London shops.
The use of botanical resources stolen from African countries and later registered as protected patents has raised moral questions over the moral responsibility of pharmaceutical companies, who happen to be the major customers and beneficiaries to such fraudulent deals.
These companies cough millions of Euros to get the nod to use the stolen patents ,a trend that also leads into exorbitant drug prices as the pharmaceutical companies seek to off set some of the costs incurred in production of such products.
One such controversy has revolved around the issue of Anti-retroviral drugs, though the issue has nothing to do with patent theft. The World Health Organization has been battling with pharmaceutical companies over the crucial issue of pricing, as health experts seek to make them cheaper and affordable to governments around poor continents.
The companies have been reluctant, though some positive strides have been made towards the manufacturing of generic drugs, which could mean reduced costs for governments- resources that would be used in improving the socio-economic status of people.
Seyani hailed the United Nations member states for putting in place mechanisms that would help protect indigenous knowledge. He said a recent meeting held in New Delhi, India, had helped open the eyes of many African states about the invaluable cost of indigenous knowledge.
Among other efforts, the UN came up with the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Malawi is yet to carry out a comprehensive analysis of its botanical resources, a development that could mean delays in finding an economic catchword in some of our wild forests- a discovery that might as well unearth the twin brother to Tobacco now faced with a growing anti-smoking lobby and dwindling market prices.
Tobacco is the country’s top export earner, accounting for 60 per cent of the country’s foreign income.
Lotteries Board squeezes auditing firms out of competitions business
By Richard Chirombo
Malawi’s auditing firms have for the past five years witnessed a slump in income gained from monitoring private sector promotions and competitions.
Industry players have attributed the trend to the establishment of the National Lotteries Board (NLB) in 2003. NLB came into effect after enactment of the Lotteries Act, making it the de facto regulator of promotions and competitions in the country.
A review of financial reports for three top notch auditing firms has revealed that there was no budget (income) line for competitions and promotions monitoring. The development confirms fears the coming in of NLB had squeezed auditing firms out of one line of business that proved both lucrative and monopolistic as other non-auditing portfolio players could not join the bandwagon.
It was customary before 2003 for private sector players to hire the services of auditing firms, in the absence of a national regulator, who provided monitoring services. Their presence also boosted the credibility and transparency acclaim of promotion and competition runners.
The trend, however, had its fair share of problems, one being that the auditing firms could not monitor compliance rates since they lacked the constitutional mandate to enforce any prize recovery measures.
The firms also happened to be official auditors for the companies running the promotions and competitions, putting them in a ‘don’t-bite-the-finger that feeds you’ fix.
Our research has revealed that the firms charged an average K700, 000 for their monitoring services, realizing a combined gross income of over K700, 000 annually.
In 2002 alone, for instance, there were 27 promotions and competitions monitored by the firms, while over 60 unmonitored promotions, competitions and fundraising activities were held by charitable organizations and church organs who could not afford the exorbitant service fees charged by the firms.
But the firms have sauntered on, despite being squeezed out of one line of business they dominated in over the years. The impact of the development seems to be negligent, if not minimal, according to their recent financial performance.
NLB Executive Director, Francis Mbilizi, when contacted this week, acknowledged that auditing firms used to dominate that line of business in the absence of a constitutionally instituted national regulator.
Mbilizi said, however, that had changed over the years as NLB makes its presence felt.
“I think part of the reason could be because of our coming in. But the other one could be because of the relatively high fees auditing firms charge; it is often in the ups of K500, 000.
“In comparison, NLB only charges 5 per cent of a promotion or competition’s total estimated budget. This means our Permit fees are reasonable,” said Mbilizi.
Mbilizi also said NLB was the only body established under an Act of parliament to monitor promotions and competitions in the country and, as such, all players needed to seek permits from the board before running any competition.
“This means that we are the only ones now; so auditing firms can no longer do that line of business,” said Mbilizi.
At the moment, NLB charges 5 per cent for any promotion or competition, down from last year’s before-September-rate of 6 percent. This is applied across the board, unlike in the past when companies running competitions of less than K5 million paid K10, 000 every month for the duration of the competition, while those running campaigns in ups of K5 million paid 6 per cent of the total competition cost.
Large industry players complained that this was unfair, leading into the gazetting of amended laws applying a 5 per cent permit fee across the board. The new rules came into effect on September 19, 2008.
NLB is an arm of the Ministry of Finance.

Malawi does little to promote Economic Botany
By Richard Chirombo
As growing economies such as China and India strengthen their economic botany industries through increased research and improved packaging, Malawi could be sitting on a billion Dollar income spinner by putting in little efforts to explore the opportunities that abound in its wide range of botanical resources.
The country has, so far, failed to use its ‘Development-Diplomacy’ strategy to woo Chinese investors, among other diplomatic allies, into economic botany. Development Diplomacy involves the use of good relations with foreign countries to press for more development investments at home.
Investigations conducted this week have revealed that the country has done little to promote economic botany, as, since January 2003, less than four research interventions have been carried out to explore new opportunities that exist in the area.
The most notable research into the area, on that could help Malawi raise its economic profile, was carried out in August, 2008 by Enoch Mlangeni and Cecilia Maliwichi-Nyirenda.
It focused on Distribution, Use and Potential Commercial Value of Mondia white in Southern Malawi. Mondia white is locally known as Gondolosi, and caused a stir in Malawi’s parliament when former Neno South Member of Parliament, Joe Manduwa, suggested that the controversial root could help the country increase the range of its export products.
Manduwa, a graduate of Bunda College of Agriculture, said at the time potential foreign markets existed for the tube, citing South Africa and United Kingdom as some of the hot spots.
Mondia white is a scrambling climber in the Milkweed family (Asclepiadaceae) that grows up to 4 metres, and is used to enhance cerebral and peripheral blood circulation.
Other than that, there have been little efforts to research on many of the country’s botanic resources.
Industry sources said this week it was the responsibility of the National Herbarium and Botanic Gardens of Malawi’s responsibility to carry out economic botany research. The institution serves as a national authority on plants, and keeps records for scientific and economic purposes.
However, National Herbarium and Botanic Gardens of Malawi General Manager, Prof. James Seyani, said recently in an interview in Zomba his institution only acts as a service provider to institutions actively involved in research and other related services.
“We are just a service provider that very rarely do we carry out economic botany research. In addition, we do not want to duplicate roles with the Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources; we are not allowed to go into business,” said Seyani.
Seyani added, however, that there were research interventions currently being carried out in Zomba and Mangochi. He said Malawi was happy that, through such conventions as the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, countries like Malawi could benefit from new protection measures against unscrupulous patenting of local products.
Seyani had some reservations about increased economic utilization of botanic resources, saying since trade involved both the supply and demand side, it was more likely that the supply side would suffer through resources depletion in the long run.
He acknowledged that economic botany was a billion Dollar industry, warning Malawians against passing traditional knowledge to foreigners- who may end up patenting local products in their original countries, and make the country pay dearly for the services of such patented products.
“That is one of the reasons we don’t advertise botanic resources because that mean loss of traditional knowledge and, possibly, billions of Dollars. Let us safeguard our resources,” he said.
According to Seyani, Malawi needed to do more in the area of packaging to reach the level of Chinese and India’s economic botany. The botanic products from the two countries can be found in Chinese and Indian-owned shops in the country, and range from dental treatment herbs to remedies for stomach upsets.
For Malawi, botanical products are largely sold on the South African market by local herbalists albeit without packaging materials and brand names. Some people also export Strophathus (Kombe/Ulembe), though this can be done only with the permission of the National Research Council.
African potato from Balaka district, fruit juice from Baobab, oranges, lemons, guava; Mondia white, Tamarndus indica (Bwemba) are some of the botanic products that have found themselves changing hands on the domestic market, while the country’s export portfolio remains weak





Two momentous developments took place between 1960 and the late 1980s, namely: Malawi’s attainment of independence from Britain in 1964 and the end of the Cold War between the United States of America and the Soviet Union. This changed the course of Malawi’s foreign policy. Under the leadership of Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Malawi’s foreign policy position was inclined towards the western capitalist states. This stance was viewed as realism (Patel and Hajat in Patel and Svasand 2007:379). With the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the communist ideology, Malawi’s foreign policy entered a phase of accommodation. While much has been written about the country’s foreign policy approaches, much of the focus has been put on the country’s relationship with apartheid and colonial regimes such as South Africa and Portugal. It has further been suggested that Malawi’s collaboration with South Africa fuelled the civil war in Mozambique, leading to assertions the country ended up as a pariah state, especially for supporting the activities of RENAMO,a proxy of the South Africa apartheid regime. However, the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines a pariah as an outcast, a person who is not acceptable to society and is avoided by everyone. This paper attempts, in the context of this definition, to argue that Malawi ended up as the key, rather than pariah, state, in Southern African Development Coordination Committee (SADCC) peace and economic initiatives. We also consider foreign policy practices of most African states at the time, characterized by African states eager to get rid of the colonialism hangover and fast track development initiatives to live up to the term ‘independence’, capitalized on economic rather than political diplomacy, or both. Tangible social-economic benefits were, during the period spanning from early 1960s to early 1990s, the millionaire’s cabbage around which the victorious nationalist leaders built people’s confidence and ensured their political survival. This was a period when most African leaders, including those belonging to the Front Line States, lived under the fear of being overthrown or undermined. Like all African states, Malawi did not inherit a silver spoon from the colonialists. Instead, Africa’s victorious nationalists inherited blank development cheques and maps. Malawi utilized foreign policy practices that were commonplace, including in developed countries, raising the big question of how, of all the countries employing similar strategies, only Malawi should be singled out and name-called. From the evidence presented, it is clear that Malawi was not a pariah state through out the period in question. In fact, the country was the key state in crucial regional development programmes. Whenever needed, Malawi played noble roles, including during the formation of a joint security committee to tackle armed bandits in both Malawi and Mozambique. It is unlike the work of a pariah state.

An examination of the relationship between Malawi and neighbouring countries shows that it was realistic. In other words, it was based more on benefits and costs than camaraderie. As in every nation state, Malawi’s foreign policy worked as an instrument that aimed at maximizing actual benefits in the relationship. Such purposeful approach by a state is what led Hans Morgenthau (1965: 8) to argue that political realism considers a rational foreign policy to be good foreign policy; for only a rational foreign policy minimizes risks and maximizes benefits and, hence, complies both with the moral precept of prudence and the political requirement of success. In Malawi, one finds a rational government working with countries that could facilitate quick-fire development without affecting relationships with neighbouring states. Banda, knew this pretty well and made sure that, if not in good terms, at least the lines of communication were kept open. This is the opposite of a pariah state.
It can be argued that Banda’s perception of foreign policy was enshrouded by the drive to overcome Malawi’s land-locked status challenges through efficient transportation links, soft loans on infrastructural development, and cooperation as one way of expanding the country’s access to foreign markets. The Front Line States could not provide this. Again, Malawi was not the only nation to benefit from South Africa. A good case in point is that of Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana. In 1963-64, South Africa developed the idea of a commonworth of independent states in southern Africa under South Africa’s leadership. Through the new Bantu Homelands Development Corporation, these countries were in 1965 offered South African aid. Relations proved closest with the new government of Lesotho under Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan, but this did not make these states pariah. From 1965, South Africa provided state development loans for industrial development in the Portuguese southern African colonies and Malawi. Both South Africa and SADCC states were craving for Malawi’s attention, which turned the country into a key, other than pariah, state.

Malawi’s conception of bilateral relations then was in line with the realist theory of international politics in which interest becomes the defining factor of relations between states (Morgenthau, 1965). In the same vein, the Rational Actor Model supports Banda’s choice of expanding and improving Malawi’s development standing in Southern Africa. As has been alluded to above, an environment of suspicion and mistrust existed among the new states, to the effect that nations were doing in darkness what they were condemning in broad daylight. Zambia is a good case in point.

After the 1986 meeting of Front Line States, which run from August 21-22 in Luanda, the states demanded that Malawi adopt a new position on peace in Mozambique. On September 11, Mozambican president Samora Machel, Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda and Zimbabwean Prime Minister Robert Mugabe traveled to Blantyre to explain to president Banda that the fundamental interests of the Malawian people were no different from those of other SADCC states, and that possible retaliation of the Front Line States would seriously affect Malawi’s land and air communication. Despite being part of this delegation, which only warned Malawi and never imposed any sanctions to turn it into a pariah state, Zambian president Kaunda sent a secret envoy to Pretoria in 1967, beginning a dialogue by private correspondence. Thus the understanding of foreign policy is made difficult by the discrepancy between what statesmen say they are doing and what they actually do (Morgenthau, 1962:1). However, what is wanted in foreign policy is realism and imagination, flexibility and firmness, vigour and moderation, continuity of policy when policy is good and the ability to change direction when international conditions make new departures desirable, adaptability of policy without destruction of its coherence or dependability (Waltz, 1967). Kaunda’s decision is a sign that Malawi made the right choice.

As has been observed, there are many aims that diplomacy has to pursue, one of which is political. The state must ensure peace and good relations with neighbouring countries. The visit of Mugabe, Machel and Kaunda on September 11, 1986 shows that Malawi was open to discussions. Then comes the issue of traditional or political diplomacy. According to Deputy Minister in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Nicholas Dausi, traditional or political diplomacy was the reason behind Malawi’s choice to forge relationships with South Africa and Portugal. Dausi said the trait of traditional diplomacy helped in bringing development to other countries such as Mozambique. He cited the railway to Beira as one of the examples, saying it was Malawi which convinced Portugal to go ahead with it despite its high costs. His sentiments were echoed by historian Desmond Dudwa Phiri, who said Malawi played a crucial role to end the Mozambique war and deserved better than being labeled a pariah state.

It must also be noted that though Malawi and Mozambique are neighbours (Mozambique lies on the East Coast of Africa, bordered to the North by Tanzania, to the West by Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, and to the South by Swaziland and South Africa), the two nations came from different backgrounds. Mozambique had been a Portuguese colony since the 19th century (Europa, 1990) while Malawi had been a British colony. Mozambique only got independence in 1975. The two nations’ priorities were bound to be different, more so when Malawi leaned towards capitalism while Mozambique favoured socialism as evidenced by the fact that the ruling FRELIMO party in that country benefited greatly from Marxist intellectuals, especially after Samora Machel took over from Eduardo Mondlane (Europa, 1990), who was murdered in Dae es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1969.

Diplomacy, defined as the conduct of business or the application of intelligence and tact to the conduct of official relations between Governments of independent States, played a huge role in making sure that the country did not become a pariah state, as witnessed by visits from regional leaders such as Mugabe, Kaunda and Machel. In the study of international politics, foreign policy encompasses the substance and content of external relations while diplomacy entails the methodology for implementing foreign policy (Krishnamurty, 1980; Bull, 1977; Satow, 1966). More over, Malawi’s policies fitted those used in international politics of the time, which leads to the conclusion that Malawi could not be branded as a pariah state when it was merely applying commonly used theories to spearhead development. It must also be noted that by the early 1950s, theoretical battles were being fought over “idealism” versus “realism” with keystones of the gospel of realism centering on nation power, nation interest and balance of power as two major approaches to how states control themselves in their interactions (Rourke and Boyer, 2004; Kegley, JR., 1995; Bennett, 1991; Rosenau, 1969; Morgenthau, 1965).

Idealism or neo-idealism is the expression of the ultimate values of freedom, peace, welfare, justice, and security, although these goals are not accepted in the same manner and with the same meanings by all states (Padelford and Lincoln 1967:49) but is a tool to increase state wealth and power(Morgenthau,1965). Thus through idealism states basing on their realist conception compete with each other for limited goods: territory, status, prestige, access to raw materials and markets, and control over strategic points. Thus the reality of diplomacy is that the gains of one state are at the expense of the others, and no state can afford to rely on others for its security and welfare (Holsti, 1995:6). The problem, however, is that studies that show how diplomacy shape the peoples’ mindsets in safeguarding the national sovereignty and resources against foreign exploitation in Malawi are rare.

Christopher Clapham (1996) argues that the foreign policy behaviour of different African states varied enough to indicate that the rulers could make real choices, for example as between ‘Capitalist’ and ‘Socialist’ strategies of economic development, and the international alignment that went with them. He argues that from the view point of rulers such as Houphouet-Boigny in Cote d’Ivoire or Kamuzu Banda in Malawi, the search for economic support dictated a clientelist approach. Until the failure of African economies brought about the imposition of structural adjustment programmes, and with the end of the Cold War revealed the vulnerability of African states to direct external intervention (Clapham 1996:65, 245). However, what approach dictated Malawi’s foreign policy between early 1960s to early 1990s has not been seriously analysed by scholars of Malawian foreign policy and diplomacy. But, definitely, it did nor lead to Malawi’s exclusion,

As it were, the end of the Cold War marked the death of the Banda doctrine of sticking to capitalist rather than socialist approaches for economic support. The world without the Cold War presented countries such as Malawi an opportunity to spread their diplomatic nets to non democratic allies and accommodated countries such as South Africa. The only problem in Malawi position could be national consultation. While most analyst of foreign policy and diplomacy argue that (it) foreign policy must be controlled by the people (Palmer & Perkins, 2004; Waltz, 1967; Nicolson, 1963) and that its conduct must adhere to certain sound principles and rules, prove its consistency with democratic tradition and the imperative effective negotiation (Palmer & Perkins, 2004; Krishnamurty, 1980; Nicolson, 1963 Macridis, 1962). However, diagnosis of the execution of foreign policy and conduct of diplomacy in Malawi as evidenced by the embracing of apartheid regimes all feed into agreed conduct of diplomacy and that clear Malawi from allegations of being a pariah state. In all this, Malawi managed to harmonise the theoretical and practical conceptions on the conduct of diplomacy, which should be aimed at the fulfillment of the national interest and secure protection of the citizenry from vulnerability of external forces (Palmer &Perkins, 2004; Rourke and Boyer, 2004; Krishnamurty, 1980; Keohane & Nye, 1977; Morgenthau, 1962).

It could be argued that those who claim that Malawi ended up as a pariah state do so for lack of other terms. After all, one of the problems countries have had with Malawi’s foreign policy has been their inability to separate political from economic or ideological determinants or what could be termed as acting in national interest. For instance, it is difficult to identify and differentiate what is acting on national, political and economic interest since Malawi got independent. This challenge is well highlighted by Larkin (1971) and Hutchinson (1975). Both authors cite the example of China as one of the victim’s of Malawi’s policies from 1964 to 2007. They argue that Dr. Banda is said to have rejected Chinese economic assistance of £6 million or £18 million to support the Chinese in the United Nations rather than recognize Taiwan (Larkin 1971, Hutchinson, 1975). Banda had told the United Nations in 1964 that, since the People’s Republic of China exercised effective authority over his territory Malawi had no choice but extent diplomatic relations. However, in twist of events, on 12 July 1966, Malawi extended de jure recognition to Taiwan (Larkin, 1971: 185). Examining Banda’s behaviour through his foreign policy actions becomes complex to categorize his kind of diplomacy as either economic diplomacy or development diplomacy or political diplomacy. The diplomatic strategies of African leaders such as Banda generated analytical problems in African foreign policy. This led Cowan to argue that foreign policies of African states have been to a degree characterized by ad-hoc decision-most of which owing to the absence of foundations on which to base an overall foreign policy, which tended at times to be contradictory and often confusing to the outside observer (Mckay 1966:119).

When Malawi applied these ideals in terms of her economic development needs, observers mistook it for the signs of a pariah state. Yet Malawi kept the channels of communication open to Mozambican officals, resulting into that joint committee to deal with bandits. Malawi that housed Mozambican refugees, a sure sign of good neighbours. Differing in diplomatic partners does not turn a country into an isolated state. Take for instance countries such as Zambia and Zimbabwe. The two had China as their ally, Mozambique still looked up to Portugal and Malawi Britain, South Africa and Portugal. Why is it that it is only Malawi that is being singled out for being different. Observers seem to forget that there is unity in diversity.

Another example could be the tendency of countries that were in SADCC, most of which could openly grant political asylum to exiled individuals from member states. It was like harbouring bandits because the exiled leaders could plan against their governments. But did did not make such states pariah. Mayall (1971) argues that in Southern Africa there was a tendency for the opposition to move abroad and identify itself with the foreign policy aims of the neighbouring state. He points out that following the Malawi cabinet crisis in September1964, six former ministers fled into exile in neighbouring Tanzania and Zambia where they were granted political asylum and, according to Malawi’s President Banda, official support in plotting his overthrow. Thus, since the Tanzanian government was deeply committed to the liberation struggle and had provided training and base facilities for nationalist freedom fighters engaged in Mozambique, and since Zambia was generally believed to be following a similar, if less openly provocative policy the presence of political exiles from Malawi inevitably led to the conflict between the three states. Both Larkin (1971) and Hutchinson (1975) point out that Banda had alleged that the political exiles camping in neighbouring countries to Malawi and plotting his assassination were aided by the People’s Republic of China. They further contend that when the Chinese realized that Banda could not succumb to the blandishment of six million or eighteen million pounds to recognize China, there was all possibility that the Chinese could sponsor his overthrow in favour of the opposition. In rejecting Chinese aid, Banda argued that the overpopulated China was looking enviously at Africa’s huge resources and if the Africans were blind and not careful the Africans would be served up as Chinese soup (Hutchinson, 1975: 272).

In conclusion, we have seen from this paper that, rather than playing isolationist politics that would have turned Malawi into a pariah state, the country utilized foreign policy strategies available between early 1960s to early 1990s, most of whom policies are still highly valued by United Nations member states. We have also seen that, other than being isolated, Malawi engaged in a sustained programme of dialogue with Front Line States as well as SADCC members, a development that helped avert disaster, bring the civil war in Mozambique to an end, promoted regional integration, increased turned the Southern Africa region into one powerful voice in terms of inter-regional negotiations. In all this, Malawi played a crucial role. This role was further appreciated by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on May 23, 2009, when he thanked Malawi for her efforts in aiding the guerrillas in Zimbabwe. Some three month earlier, former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano told former Ghanaian President, John Kufuor, about how Malawi allowed them to operate in Chilobwe, Blantyre. A host of African heads of state attended the funeral of Malawi’s former President, Dr. Banda. All these point to the fact that Malawi ended up as a key, rather than pariah, state in the region.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Malawi gets tough on adoption before World Cup

Malawi has stepped up efforts to stop any international adoption attempts, at least until after the World Cup in South Africa.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) member state has, since September 2009, upped up its efforts to curb incidences of child trafficking, in the process putting the spanners in all adoption attempts in the hope that Malawian children would be safe.
Justice Edward Twea, a High Court judge and also Chairperson for the Juvenile Justice Forum, confirmed the development to Zachimalawi, saying, "As it were, the World Cup can only be described as a danger zone" for Malawian children.
"The thing is, we have just put in place mechanisms aimed at ensuring that our children are safe. As we approach the time of the World Cup (In June this year), we anticipate that there may be some people from the international community who may wish to traffic our children in the name of inter-country adoption. We are just on guard," said Twea.
He said there was need for Malawians to be careful with people who would wish to foll them into offering their children up for adoption when, in fact, they want to traffic them for commercial sex work in South Africa.
Child Justice Magistrate Esmie Tembenu concurred with Twea, saying the country anticipates an increased number of people wishing to adopt children from the country for purposes of trafficking and commercial sex work.
"Actually, we fear that our courts may be overstretched with such adoption attempts.The best we can do is wait until the World Cup is over," said Tembenu.
Malawi is yet to ratify international protocols on inter-country adoption, rendering the country ill-prepared.