Thursday, November 30, 2006


A couple of days ago, Dr Steve Sharra posted an article on Malawitalk,following Prime Minister Tony Blair's comments on slave trade.
He did not say anything but knowing Dr Sharra who at 16 began his social consciousness, sharing a strong feeling of inequality and injustice by powerful nations of the global North against smaller nations from the global South, ,I reckoned his posting meant something and true to my gut feelings the title was self explanatory
"Blair: Britain's 'sorrow' for shame of slave trade"
The article had a historic statement by Prime minister Blair who was condemning slave trade and or slavery as’ crime against humanity',,1957278,00.html

As I went through the link provided by Steve, I soon developed an interest in the story.
A man of my race should know about slave trade. We were taught about it at school and were forced to memorize all the stories in order to pass history exams.
Never at one point did it occur to me that what happened then, was a heinous crime until I started reading each and every link provided by the guardian and other papers.

In no time, the exact picture of what slavery was, started to emerge. I remember coming a cross a certain passage on one link which had my face buried in shame. The passage was talking about the conditions on a slave ship in the 1700s-They were barbaric.
All what was important was profit as they packed people like sardines.
In the pages that follow, I could not control my emotions, as I found myself twitching the muscles of my face as if I had been exposed to an awful site yet in this very passage, these merciless slave traders and shippers had made slaves who happen to be people of my color to lie on their own excrement.

As I went further reading this awful past of our former cousins, I came across another passage quoting a surgeon on a British slave ship who noted that the floor slave hold was covered in blood and mucus which had proceeded from them in consequence of dysentery resembled a slaughter house." The air was so foul that a candle would not light in it" he concluded.

On another link, the writer claimed thus:" on the worst voyages, skippered by men too drunk or too callous to take care of their charges, slaves attempted to jump overboard as others tried to kill themselves by refusing food, in which case the slave was forced to his knees and a burning coal was applied to his mouth to make him scream, then a metal implement called a speculum oris was forced between his jaws so that food could be emptied down his throat.

For good or bad reasons, this xerographic analysis was never discussed in any of the history books that I read during my primary and secondary school history tuition. As my head was full of questions, "How could people be so cruel? And what would force them to behave in this way, were there any laws against this heinous crime" Yes, there were laws, the second paragraph would reveal, just that it was lawful.
It was legal. It brought millions of pounds into the British economy. Most of the big kahuna's were involved directly and or indirectly.

Cities like Bristol , had an almost 60% of its economy dependent on slave trade but towards late spring of 1787, something happened under an “oak tree” on pit estate in holwood Kent.[please keep the word oak tree as I shall come back to it]

It started by 3 young men aged 28 namely Pitt, his cousin William Greniville and their friend William Wilberforce. What was discussed under that “Oak tree” by those twenty eight year olds would change the cause of history. It was the rarest of political phenomena- a collective change of hearts towards humanity by twenty eight year olds. Over two hundred years have gone since then. The trio, Pitt and the two Williams are long gone, but the “oak tree” stump is still there, marked with a plaque.

From then on, a series of campaign started which included parliamentary motions, congregational speeches and William Wilberfoce's best selling book-A PRACTICAL VIEW OF CHRISTIANITY in which he illustrated how religious faith could guide the habits, attitudes and politics of a nation. I must admit, reading through this marvelous book, I felt reading one of my own essays-THE POLITICS OF NKWEZULE.

As anyone can imagine, these brave young men, met insurmountable challenges. Old and experienced politicians first demanded evidence, when evidence was provided, they claimed "SLAVES WERE BETTER,HAPPIER,HEATHIER AND CLOSER TO GOD ON SUGAR PLANTATION THAN THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN IN PAGAN AFRICA.

Lord Nelson, a respected figure in British politics raged against an inexperienced young William dubbings his friends-hypocritical allies”. The then Royal family was not pleased with these youngsters cause and they utterly opposed it through the future King William 1V in the House of Lords.

But as time fly past, things started changing. The young men were growing in strength and wisdom. They were getting organized two. By 1807, the government of the day, had had enough as most of the speeches were in favor of slave trade abolition bill followed by the solicitor general of the time who defined William Wilberforce as

And when the bill passed, the whole house rose in a scene almost unprecedented to cheer Wilberforce. They threw their hearts and sticks as a form of respect but much to their surprise, the man who was supposed to be hero of the hour sat with his head bowed as tears were streaming down his face, crying for a race that was not his, amidst sharing their anger, pain and despair. Not surprising indeed that at west minister abbey to day, his epitaph reads:

Immediately after reading this, I talked to myself and said,” thank you Dr Steve Sharra. Through your link on slave trade, I have managed to revisit my past and found it failing. I tried to recall, what I did when I was 28 and was sorry of my failure and own inadequacy to stand for injustices of my era .I had done nothing for my country apart from planning a long journey to the west to enrich myself.

As I look back at my trails to England, I saw my self crossing the same oceans where those born two hundred years before me had pass in a hold with some sleeping on their poop and own urine. I was drinking tomatoes juice and my favorite guava in the prestigious Austrian Airlines yet two hundred years ago, people of my race were on strike, wanting to die as they could not handle the degree of inhumanity.

It took the courage of young men who were rich and financially stable to hatch a plan that would change the world.
They did not meet on a cruise line or business class. They did not meet in a posh hotel or palace. These young men were rich and could afford life at Dorchester, but instead,
THEY MET UNDER THE OAK TREE .At 28; they sparked a debate that would soon change the whole world.

These people were the salt of the new found freedom and were the pillars of struggle for equality. Their willingness to challenge the injustices of the time and the inhuman nature of the manner in which people of my race were being treated were not ordinary acts.
Malawi may not be experiencing the wrath of slavery and the degree of injustices of the seventeenth centuries.

There is no doubt that what Malawi has accomplished within this short period is both impressive and inspiring. Among African nations, we remain a model for representative democracy - a place where many different ethnic factions have found a way to live and work together in peace and stability.

But for all the progress that has been made, we must surely acknowledge that we have not yet fulfilled our potential - that the hopefulness of the post-colonial era replaced by repression is a regrettable fact. That a post repressive administration was replaced by a decade of corruption and mob justice is another sad reality and that political despair, and that true economic freedom has not yet been won for those struggling to live on less than a few dollars a day, for those who have fallen prey to HIV/AIDS or malaria, to those ordinary citizens who continue to find themselves trapped in the crossfire of political depression needs a united front that brings the nation together.

Large parts of Malawi strike similar resemblance to those of the 17th century.

As did William and his friends under the OAK Tree that would change the tide of history, Malawians of youthful years also need to establish their own “OAK TREES” where issues of development and progress can be discussed.
As David Mkwambisi once said:" people should avoid shouting from the stands without themselves contributing to the development of the country

There are parts in Malawi that are as poor as those in the days of Wilberforce and friends. Instead of looking to government for help, let’s seek personal means of lifting the spirits of our brothers and sisters.
Lets discuss humanity in the context of Dr Ken Lweya when he said:“ It is about treating others as we would to be treated. It is about a sense of sharing, belong and togetherness including the fact that no human being is an island.

Those of us that have been lucky to escape grinding poverty from our homes in urban cities and villages, Its high time we start paying attention to what Yona Matemba said on Malawitalk when he said," Lets use our BA's and Bsc's to create jobs and not use them in hunt jobs"
The calls of Yona Matemba and those before him are the foundations of Malawi's much needed "oak trees" wherever Malawians of youthful years meet.
Yona Matemba's calls goes deeper than tests and grades, varsity letters and service awards. It is the sort of calls that keeps each of one of us, asking the questions, what if, why, and why not? The one that keeps you always searching for answers to those questions. The one that makes you say,
"I don't have to be content with the present, because I have a role in changing the lives of others”
Yona Matemba's calls join other youthful thinkers like Dr Steve Sharra who argues that "defining development as buildings and infrastructure does capture the hopes and aspirations of many Malawians, but its narrowness and insufficiency comes from its inability to encourage the reconciliation of our endogenous institutions, traditions and cultures with our desire for change.

I am in my mid 30s now and may not reverse history back to my 28 youthful days like the likes of Rhodrick Kalumpha,Greenwell Matchaya and Dr Mtumbuka to mention afew, but Malawi's OAK TREES calls for those with new ideas and just youngs ones, those who can propel the winds of industry, those who can take advantage of the current government's sound economic policies by tapping into readily available resources in our financial institutions and invest in areas that can create mass employement and pioneer the spirit of mass export.
There is a great need for men and women, young and old, who cannot use their scholarly and material achievements as weapons of intimidation.

After wining the biggest moral argument the world has ever seen, as his friends were cheering him in honor, Wilberforce sat down with his head bowed as tears were streaming down his face, crying for a race that was not his.
Why can’t we do the same, why not take a seat and reflect on the degree of poverty going on in our villages and do something about it?

Why can’t we use our resources and take time to constantly look around our impoverished nation and seek new ways to improve our situation, to embrace change as the inevitable engine of progress.



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