Friday, June 10, 2011

Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda visited Israel on 27 May 1968

What did the Father and Founder of the Malawi Nation say, when he addressed the Israeli Parliament?
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It is a trip still cherished by the Israelis. Why?
Because this was a time most African states were shunning Israel.

Address of Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda, President of Malawi to the Knesset, May 27, 1968

Mr. Speaker and Honourable Members, It is not easy for me to tell you how happy I am to stand before you this evening. I am happy for more than one reason. As I stated when you welcomed me at the gate of Jerusalem last evening, for me to be here, is a thing that seems altogether a dream. As you may have read in the newspaper, I am from Malawi, a former

Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Kankhwala Banda, the Father and Founder of the Malawi Mation, M'chikumbe Number One, Mkango wapfuko laMalawi (The Lion of Malawi)

protectorate, the British protectorate of Nyasaland. As a boy I read the Bible. It was taught at Sunday-school. We learned about Jerusalem, Palestine, Bethlehem and Jordan. I never thought then it would be possible for me to come here. More recently, when I was in Britain during the war, I used to read of the struggle of the people who came here to make a home, because of the dream of one man who orga- nized the Zionist movement in order to establish a state, a home for his people. Finally, in 1948-49, the dream which some thought dead, became a reality, in the form of the State of Israel - the independent, sovereign State of Israel.

Even then I never thought it would be possible for me to be here, to put my feet on the sacred soil of this country. You can understand, therefore, my feeling and my emotion in being here, not only to be here, but to be here as a state guest, invited by your president, your government and the whole people. Even now as I stand here in front of you, Mr. Speaker and Honourable Members, it hardly seems real to me. I keep asking myself whether I am really here in Jerusalem, really in Israel, whether the people around me are real or fantasies. You don't know what it means for me. In your welcome address, you described what I tried to do to advance my people's cause. But if I did all that, it was through inspiration from others like yourself in this country and from great figures in history. After all, I would like to remind you that there is some resemblance between you, the Israeli people, or the Jewish people, and us the Malawians. We are people who believe in helping ourselves before we ask others to help us. We are a determined people, a courageous people, and some say, a brave people. So I was greatly touched by what you said in your welcome address when you mentioned some of the things I did, even my stay in prison. All this to me was part of my job, to bring my people to where I wanted them to be in this world, in their own country. That was why I did not mind all the difficulties. I had your example before me and I had the example of others before me, to go by and to follow. Now my country is independent just as Israel is an independent sovereign state, after two thousand years of your people's wandering all over the world.

All this was something from which, among other things, I personally gained great inspiration. To be here now, gives me even greater inspiration. When you came here, this place was a desert with rocks all over, but you removed them. You brought soil from far away, and what was once a desert, you turned into a fertile field in which you grow many different kinds of crops which are said to be grown only in the tropics like in our Malawi. Yours was a small country until last June, hardly 8000 square miles, with a population of just over 2 million. We in Malawi are much luckier than you. We have 35,000 square miles of which 9000 are water, leaving us still much more land than you have. They call us a poor people, a poor country, but seeing what you have accomplished here and reading what you have done in this country, gives me great hopes for the future. This is why I am so grateful for what you have already done, and what you are doing now for my country. And I must make it public.

From the time we became independent, because of my association with some leaders of this country in London, in New York and in other places, I felt inclined to ask you for your help. I remember the first time I did so, in 1963, when we were short of doctors. You sent us doctors. Later on when we were about to become independent I asked you for instructors to train our youth and for some agricultural experts. You sent us these. As I am speaking, we have not only some of your agricultural experts, but also some doctors helping us there and, in particular, instructors for our young pioneers. Because our country is agricltural we want to emphasize the development of agriculture in the training of our youth. Therefore being here now gives me even greater hopes for the future. This is why, Mr. Speaker and Honourable Members, I am so happy to be here.

I would be much happier if things were not as they are now. I refer to the unhappy situation which we are in. I am personally concerned about what is going on in the Middle East. After all the Middle East and Africa are almost one geographical area. What affects you here affects us in my part of the world. That was why, when you were in a grip last June, I felt bound to express my opinions as I saw the situation, come what might. I am a man who believes in speaking the truth the way I see the truth no matter who disagrees or agrees with me.

I am so happy now to be here in a united city, united Jerusalem. I have just come from Bethlehem. There I was received by a mayor who, judging by his colour, was not an Israeli but an Arab. Yet when we are away from here, reading the papers and listening to the radio, you would not think that there was any cooperation between the Jewish people and the Arabs. And this is one of the reasons I am so happy I came, because I have seen with my own eyes an Arab mayor welcoming me side by side with an Israeli army officer. When I go back home, now, whether at meetings of O.A.U (Organisation for African Unity) in Addis Ababa or at the meetings of the Commonwealth of Prime Ministers Conference in London, and even more, at the meeting of the General Assembly of the U.N in New York, I will tell my colleagues that they speak from what they read in the paper, from what they hear on the radio, but I speak of what I saw with my own eyes, and what I heard here with my own ears. Therefore whatever they say, whatever they may think, about this Israel-Arab problem, I think the stand I took last year was the right one. I thought I knew the facts as I gathered them from history, on which I could act and did act accordingly. Now I am convinced that I was more than right. Therefore when I am back at home I shall be in a much better position to speak of the Israeli-Arab conflict. As I said, your problem here in the Middle East is our problem over there. Therefore we can not be indifferent. We who are called African leaders can not be indifferent, but whatever we do, we must not do it moved by emotion or personal prejudice. We must do it, whatever it is that we do, from genuine conviction of the rightness and justness of the cause which we support or wich we champion. We must not take any action or any stand on any issue in the Middle East just because so and so is my friend in the General Assembly of the United Nations and I want his vote. No! No! In my view that is not the way. We must study the question, find out facts, and see who is in the right and who is in the wrong. After we have convinced ourselves as to who is in the right and who is in the wrong, we can take a stand, and once we take a stand, we must not be swayed by fear, whether it be the fear of becoming unpopular, or the fear of not towing the popular line.

Let me repeat. What happens here, affects us Africans. What happens here cannot leave without feeling its aftermath in Africa. This is why, Mr. Speaker and Honourable Members, I would like to thank you very much indeed for the opportunity to meet you and to express my deep thanks to your govetnment and to the people of this country for everything you are doing to help us, and at the same time to tell you, how I feel about the problems of the Middle East.

You can always rely on me, to do my best. No matter where, whether in Africa, Europe or America, according to my understanding of the situation.

Thank you very very much.

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