3And the king said, “What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this?” Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, “There is nothing done for him.”… 8“Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head: 9And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour. Esther 6:3, 8-9, KJV
On 28 June 1914, a Bosnian Serb Yugoslav nationalist, Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Austro-Hungarian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, that led to the July Crisis. In response, Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia on 23 July, but Serbia’s reply failed to satisfy the Austrians. The two moved to a war footing and July 28, 2014, war broke that soon spread to other parts of Europe. Then from 1939 to 1945, the world again was at war. Known as World War II, it was precipitated by an aggressive Germany under Adolf Hitler, that embarked on annexing neighboring countries in the desire to getting “a window to the sea.”
Both wars involved over 100 million soldiers from Europe, the United States, and colonies owned by Britain, France and Germany. Millions lost their lives, limbs, sight, mental health, livelihoods; the military personnel and soldiers that survived, have been honored annually with parades held on the day the first World War ended, November 11, 1918.
The grand bandstand commemoration, while being a hugely pomp-ish affair in the cities and capitals of the Allies around the world, it has always been a low-keyed, somber one, especially here in Malawi. There were many soldiers from Africa, Malawi, that joined British, French and American soldiers to go and fight to squash the villainous countries that threatened global peace.
A great big sigh of relief, coupled with the cynical “It’s about time” commentaries when on November 11, 2018, British High Commissioner to Malawi, Holly Tett announced that her government would increase its money to Malawi’s 440 veterans. They are among 7,000 who participated in both wars. This increase is given, according to Tett, to prevent the veterans and ex-servicemen and women, from suffering from hunger and poverty.
The assistance comes from the Department of International Development (DfID).
Last year the Malawi Defense Force, in a move to do something for the men that bravely joined in the war effort, changed the name of the organization that looks after the welfare of the two great wars, from CELOM (Commonwealth Ex-service League of Malawi) to VELOM (Veterans and Ex-service Members League of Malawi.
Malawi’s remaining heroes include Sgt John Masanya and Staff Sgt Mang’anda, whom Tett acknowledged that she and her government appreciate their service during the world wars. But the renaming of CELOM to VELOM, embraces servicemen and women that served in the Malawi Defense Force and retired.
These are awesome moves, inclusive, and long overdue. While I saw CELOM assist in the welfare of veterans of the global wars, they were wars that technically had nothing to do with then Nyasaland, as Malawi was known then, and such help always came with labouriously lengthy processes and persistence by my mother, as she fought for the rights of her late brother’s children and widow’s upkeep and schooling.
I learned how to spell Timbuktu as a young elementary student because that was one of the areas my Uncle Tennyson Chikankheni, was one of the many stations he was posted.
Late Uncle Tennyson Chikankheni Sr., who fought in World War II as part of the King’s African Rifles and wore his uniform with pride up to the 1960’s before his retirement, and when Nyasaland became an independent country, Malawi.
During his tenure in the KAR, he toured Burma (Myanmar) Malaysia, Germany, and Timbuktu. To this list of family members, I add Late Uncle Lemson Chanthunya, and Late Uncle Steven Phombeya.
While veterans in the US, UK, Europe, and other parts of the developed world enjoy a boisterous after the war life of mostly elevated lifestyle, that of the men who left their family, country and continent, to fight in a war that they did not understand, involve them or thank them until 100 years later.
If the fight of 1914 to 1918 and 1939 10 1945, were for the greater good of mankind, peace and the routing out of all evil, it is grossly ironic because all the good that the war was ferociously fought for, the bounty of the wars remained in the West and has not trickled to the countries that sent soldiers, many of whom were tasked with the miserable tasks of war.
This is despite all the November 11 pomp and pageantry the day is according to cities and capitals around the world. In Malawi, as in much of other African countries, veterans of the two world wars, the Korean War, have lived close to the fringes of poverty; up to the time former President Kamuzu Banda ordered that decent houses be built for the veterans in Zomba, they had lived in thatched houses.
Subsequent presidents have also endeavored to show their appreciation, acknowledging their level of service. The contribution from the UK of 118 Pounds Sterling to each of the VELOM men, will be a boost for the Vets, something that will ensure they have two meals a day.
My family currently has two war heroes – Tennyson Chikankheni Jr. (DRC), Chifundo Chintsanya, and Mo Karim (Afgan, Germany, and Middle East).
Our men and women in uniform are our pride and joy, they defend us and secure the integrity of our national borders. Our timely appreciation and support, material and spiritual is paramount and must be prioritized.
The fact that it has taken the UK 100 years to step up their contribution to higher levels is overdue. The appreciation that the high commissioner expresses, is appreciated, but the length of time it has taken for this to be given and the discrepancies between Malawi soldiers and UK soldiers is depressing.
Global democracy was fought and has been guaranteed by dedicated soldiers; all the soldiers must be compensated in an equally and timely manner.