Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Like Sunday Like Wednesday

Blantyre: It is calm outside. In Blantyre's Central Business District and outskirts, the scene is silent and still.
In fact, the day could be equated to Sunday- half-Sunday- because most shops are closed.
But the hush has not 'filled' the streets, city grounds, mountains and valleys; it is quiet in the shops, too. There is nobody, not even the owners and workers, inside.
They are closed.
The mood is a little bit sombre, too; it is as if people are feeling something empty, something lacking inside, something wrong within.
That must be the excitement of matching. It must have left yesterday (Tuesday) when reports that the planned demonstrations had been cancelled.
Everyone is in negotiation-mood, everyone wants to extend a hand towards the abstract called peace. It is working, it seems, at least for now.
Peace-building prayers set the mood on Tuesday, as members of the Malawi Council of Churches, Episcopal Conference of Malawi, Evangelical Association of Malawi, Muslim Association of Malawi gathered at Kwacha International Conference Centre, a.k.a. COMESA Hall, to offer the nation's grievances to the God.
President Bingu wa Mutharika, who has been conducting whistle-stop tours the past seven days, inviting Malawians to a cocktail of peace, was there in attendance.
At least for once.
The last time Mutharika wore this 'sombre', 'peaceful', submissive', 'prayeful' mask was between the years 2004 and 2009. This was during his first five-year term in office.
It was a sad moment for Malawi, too. Because this was a time the opposition was in majority inParliament, and clearly abused their numbers.
Some would say the way Mutharika is playing with the human numbers today, to achieve personal goals. Private goals.
The opposition could manage to hold the nation to ransom, prioritising 'impeachment' procedures at the expense of the National Budget.
Yet, this was during Budget Sessions in Parliament.
The truth was there for the taking, for all to see, and appreciate. But the opposition Malawi Congress Party, United Democratic Front, People's Progressive Movement, among others stood on the moral high ground, thumping their feet down, fighting for impeachment procedures.
Mutharika did what worked then; appealing for public support.
He would do it wearing a sombre, submissive, humble face. The nation was convinced.
That is why Civil Society Organisations organised vigils. In Malawi's cold month of June, they gathered at the gates leading to the New State House- President Mutharika's official residence, a residence that was Malawi's Parliament as well.
The people were not against the State residence, or the State President. They were against the opposition people who met their, under the banner of legislators, to frustrate government's development agenda.
And civil society won this battle of common sense, as the opposition would, then, bow down to pressure and pass the budget.
Always, it was not Mutharika who called the shots; it was not him who won the battle. The winners were the civil society members, the nation.
Today, Mutharika has, somehow, turned against the same civil society, calling them names, giving them negative tags.
That is why civil society reverted to the old way- which is the most recently used way because 2004 and 2009 are not that far away; their scent is still here with us- of doing things: vigils, demonstrations.
Mutharika has discovered the pain opposition parties felt. Civil society action pushes leaders to a corner, giving them little room to 'walk-around'.
That is why Mutharika was there at COMESA on Tuesday, wearing a humble musk. It is a musk the opposition knows too well about.
However, it is not only Mutharika, religious leaders, wearing this musk. The whole nation is.
That is why Blantyre, for one, is quiet today.
That is why reports indicate that Lilongwe is equally quiet.
Like Sunday like Wednesday. That is how things are.
That is how this peace feels like.
This temporary peace.

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