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HomeMalawiHuman RightsSundays with Cedrick: The Deep Roots of Tribalism in Malawi

Sundays with Cedrick: The Deep Roots of Tribalism in Malawi

Tribalism in Malawi
Tribalism in Malawi

By Cedrick Ngalande

There was an interesting denial in the papers this week. A letter purportedly  leaked from an organization called Chichewa Heritage Foundation (CHEFO) invited all Chewa people to submit their resumes to a Chewa resume bank, presumably to ensure that Chewa people get jobs in government. 

Not surprising the leaked letter caused an uproar in the country. The leader of CHEFO then issued a statement  characterizing the ‘leaked’ letter as fake news. CHEFO remains apolitical, he said. CHEFO is a cultural group with no power or interest to influence government, the refusal continued.  

The last sentence of this  press release was interesting. It read, “We have INSTRUCTED the police to INVESTIGATE  the origins of such a publication and the perpetrators SHOULD be brought to book under the law”.  … and the guy who signed it has a PhD.

By the way, did you pick up the confusion in the letter?  An organization of the tribe of the president issues a statement to claim that they have no influence whatsoever in the affairs of government. Yet  somehow the same organization can instruct the police to do whatever the organization wants! In case you have forgotten your civics, the state president is the only civilian who can order the police around. He is the only commander-in-chief of the Malawi Police.

If corruption is the cancer of the nation of Malawi, tribalism is our  original sin. One of the rallying cries of the opposition in the 2019/20 elections was the eradication of the supposedly tribalism of the DPP. Unfortunately, no sooner had the MCP got into power than they filled most top government jobs, including cabinet,  with people from one region.  Yes, even the president’s immediate family members got positions in government.  In the scramble to fill the positions with their own tribesmen, the MCP  even forgot about their faithful partner, the  UTM. Remember , it was the UTM that singlehandedly made the MCP comeback possible. In Chakwera’s government, the vices of tribalism and nepotisms  are  so rampant that he does not even seem to care.

Of course, MCP cannot be singled out for this hypocrisy. Some of the worst critics of DPP were current and former supporters/members of AFORD. History will recognize the founder of AFORD, Chakufwa Chihana, as the father of multiparty politics in Malawi.  It was Chihana, who at the peak of the MCP regime,  announced on the BBC that he would fly back to Malawi and read a statement upon arrival at the airport.  Those of us who had grown up believing that nobody could ever challenge Kamuzu Banda were shocked  and in disbelief to hear a mere mortal make such a promise.

Yet in a series of ensuring heroic efforts, Chakufwa Chihana’s bravery led to Dr. Banda’s  acceptance of the multiparty referendum. At that point most Malawians, including the donor community, believed that Chihana would be the next president of Malawi.

Then, there it was! AFORD announced its first long awaited central executive  committee. People were shocked to find that all the appointed executive committee members, except regional chairmen, were from one region. The arrogance of such tribalism was too much for most Malawians to stomach. Bakili Muluzi became  the safe alternative.

Back to CHEFO leaked letter.  If the letter is ‘fake news’ as the leader claims, how else did we end up with so many CHEFO members in government in such a short period of time?

As Malawians, we are always in denial about tribalism. To most of us,  tribalism happens in ‘that other tribe’ not ours. The truth is that tribalism permeates the whole society, and its roots are very deep. We need to find lasting solutions to this problem, even if it will mean amending the constitution.

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Ad Astra!

Cedrick Ngalande
Cedrick Ngalande
I am a strategic engineering executive with the technical breadth necessary to oversee all functions within the engineering team, with proven success in mentoring highly talented and successful engineers who aspire to perform with accountability for achieving their personal best while also meeting or exceeding company goals. I have always represented the company to the highest standards regarding engineering strategy, performance and outlook. My strong background in aerospace engineering, computer programming, stochastic processes and engineering probability is a result of my expertise in space environments with specialties in direct simulations Monte Carlo (DSMC) and computational fluid dynamics (CFD), predictive science, investment and financial engineering. As an effective leader, I also bring a business focus in areas including corporate strategy, project analytics, materials planning, production and procurement. This business acumen is combined with my demonstrated technical tactical leadership. My key strengths include: - Engineering Management - Leadership / Mentor / Team Development - Quantitative / Qualitative Methods - Financial Engineering - DSMC / CFD - Numeric Modeling - Investment Analysis - SAP /ERP


  1. Tribalism is indeed even as we continue to cross marriage ithout difficult.

    Stupid leadership is our first Sin starting with Kamuxu and spiraling with Lazarus chakwera our court installed leader

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