The Genesis of Demonstrations in Malawi Under President Lazarus Chakwera: Assessing their Impact:


By Twinkspurge Jones Gadama…..,.

Since the inauguration of President Lazarus Chakwera, Malawi has witnessed a wave of demonstrations organized by civil society organisations. These demonstrations have for so long be held for a common denominator of pressuring the president to address a number of concerns affecting Malawians.
However, concerns have been raised regarding the president’s response to the grievances.
Questions as to whether these demonstrations are bearing fruits or no are undoubtedly boggling minds of many a people.

Genesis of Demonstrations:

  1. Historical Context
    The country has a long-standing tradition of citizens’ engagement through protests, dating back to the pro-democracy movements in the 1990s. This history establishes where the population is aware of the power of collective action. President Lazarus Chakwera’s perceived lack of response to demonstrations organized by civil society organizations raises questions about his commitment to addressing the issues affecting Malawians. These demonstrations have been held to highlight a range of concerns, including social and economic issues, corruption, governance, and human rights violations. However, analyzing the impact and effectiveness of these demonstrations requires a nuanced understanding of Malawian politics and the president’s political agenda.

Firstly, it is important to consider the context in which these demonstrations are taking place. Malawi is a democratic country, and citizens have the right to express their grievances through peaceful protests. Demonstrations serve as a platform for people to voice their concerns and call for action from their elected leaders. However, it’s equally crucial to recognize that political decisions cannot solely be based on protests, as governments need to balance various interests and considerations.

When evaluating the impact of demonstrations, it is essential to examine the president’s response and any subsequent actions taken. Silence or lack of immediate action does not necessarily indicate indifference or dismissal of the demands. It may be due to a range of factors, such as the need for a comprehensive assessment, consultations with stakeholders, or the complexity of the issues at hand.

Moreover, in a democratic society, demonstrations alone cannot guarantee desired outcomes. Progress requires a combination of public pressure, engagement with policymakers, and institutional reforms. While demonstrations play a role in raising awareness and creating public discourse, they must be accompanied by targeted advocacy efforts, effective communication, and sustained engagement with decision-makers.
The genesis of recent demonstrations can be traced back to the disputed 2020 presidential election,which ultimately resulted in the annulment of the previous results and subsequent re-run.Tbe election process itself fostered an environment of political tension and popular dissatisfaction,leading to calls for accountability and change.
Following the nullification of the elections Civil society organisations mobilised protests demanding electoral justice, transparency and resignation of the then MEC chair Justice Jane Ansah.

The civil society then made a remarkable achievement as Jane Ansah threw in the towel and paved way for Justice Chifundo Kachale.

While on throne Chakwera was expected to fulfill what he promised the masses but to the disbelief of the plebiens and a spate of demos diversed from nature and some of the notable ones were as follows:

  1. Ant-Corruption Protests:
    In August 2020, Civil society organisations organized a national wide protest against corruption. The protesters demanded action from the government in addressing rampant corruption and holding accountable those involved in financial misconduct.
  2. Electoral Reforms Protests:
    In September 2020,civil society groups staged demonstrations demanding electoral reforms. They expressed dissatisfaction with the slow pace of electoral reforms promised by president Chakwera, following his victory in the 2020 presidential elections.
  3. Youth unemployment protests:
    In October 2020,young people took to the streets to protest against high levels of unemployment and lack of job opportunities. Demonstrators demanded that government implement policies to tackle youth unemployment and create avenues for economic empowerment
  4. Fuel price hike Protests:
    In February 2021,civil society organisations led protests against the government’s decision to increase fuel prices. Demonstrators expressed concern over the impact of the fuel hike on the cost of living and called for measures to mitigate its effects on the population.

Those are just few selected demos and this week also there have been demonstrations in all the cities calling for the immediate resignation of President Lazarus Chakwera for being what they termed a clueless and vision less leader who has lost direction and only cares for his family members at the expense of millions of Malawians.

A number of issues raised by civil societies haven’t been addressed by Chakwera ever since he assumed the high office.
One tangible example of President Chakwera’s failure to address the needs of Malawians is the issue corruption. Despite promising to fight corruption during his campaign,there have been limited efforts to address this problem. Malawians have been witnessing various corruption scandals,including alleged mismanagement of COVID-19 relief which is still in the hearts of many Malawians,the giant Sattar scandal etc. The lack of concrete actions and transparent investigations into these cases has led to growing disillusionment among the public.
Malawians have been grappling with economic hardships, exacerbated by the COVID-19, Pandemic. Many civil society organisations have called for economic policies that address rising unemployment rates,inflation and high cost of living. These requests have largely fallen on the deaf ears ,with limited tangible measures being implemented to alleviate these pressing concerns.This lack of concern has contributed to growing frustration within the civil society and the general public.

These few highlighted examples demonstrate that President Chakwera has failed to address the needs of Malawians and respond the calls for action from civil society organisations.This inaction could have long-term consequences,including eroding public trust in the government and hindering the country’s development.

However, it’s important to note that the impact of demonstrations cannot be measured solely by immediate outcomes. It may take time to witness the full effects of public pressure and calls for change. Institutional reforms and policy shifts are gradual processes that require consistent pressure and sustained activism.

The success of demonstrations depends on multiple factors, including the solidarity and size of protests, support from other stakeholders, media coverage, and the ability to communicate demands effectively. Demonstrations that are inclusive, well-organized, non-violent, and receive widespread public support are more likely to exert pressure on the government and prompt action.

In conclusion, the demonstrations organized by civil society organizations in Malawi have played a crucial role in highlighting the concerns of the citizens and putting pressure on the government. While President Lazarus Chakwera’s response may seem limited at times, it’s important to consider the complexities of governance and decision-making processes. The impact of demonstrations requires a broader perspective, considering not just immediate responses but also long-term changes in policies, accountability, and governance.

It is too early to conclusively assess the dividends of the demonstrations, as lasting change takes time.


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