Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Youth Political Activism In Malawi: Where We Are…And What Next

                 Without molding the youth for the desired  politics, Malawi runs the risk of molding political destruction. 

Empowerment seems to be the common theme among Malawian politicians when it comes to talking about the need for the complete involvement of the youth in politics. However, looking at the youth empowerment discourse critically convinces one that the theme is nothing but a grand talk shop oozing the air of a genuine agenda when actually it is a self-serving ideology having all the hallmarks of youth political cannibalism.

Being politically adventurous as he is, the author has participated in many a political gatherings and institutions. The author, himself once a political party prostitute, has served almost all big political parties in Malawi in different ranks during his studentship days.

The first case of youth political party cannibalism the author experienced was with United Democratic Front (UDF) where, with time, he served almost in all big positions. Rosy promises were made; invitation to national party meetings, movement from the Wing to the nation party, and all that jazz. But, sadly, all was offered was a platform to sing and dance at party rallies. That's all.

Then favors for UDF waned. Then came Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). It promised a change in the way Malawi politics looks at the youth--the disempowered majority. Joining DPP especially during the controversial Quota System debate made politics more real; nocturnal meetings, grand internal disagreements etc. Things seemed okay. No wonder, joining Prodeyom seemed to be the best decision then. What started as a health relationship soon became sour as no change was seen coming. The author later dumped DPP during its infamous days and joined University Students for New Agenda for Change (UniSAC).

UniSAC was a University students movement garnering political support for you-know-who. It was a vibrant and visionary organization for the man for whom the organization was formed seemed equally visionary. Unfortunately, things hit a snag when the man joined the Orange camp, openly announcing that all he ever wanted was a change in leadership and not presidency.

Later on, perhaps the only choice at the time, joining the Orange camp seemed plausible. It came to be known later in one meeting that the Predoyom Chair was also the chair of the Orange youth camp--the Orange Partners (OP). Mere curiosity gave way to dedication. 

He attended the nocturnal meetings at lodges mostly around Blantyre. There we talked. We talked how the youth are abused and dumped and how the Orange camp will put an end to that. And we all clapped hands in unison. Those were the days. Now the story is the same as during the Yellow camp, and Blue camp. And, such seems to be youth empowerment politics in Malawi.

As brink as the future for meaningful youth empowerment was then, the author fallen in love with the then-vibrant-now-dormant youth organization--the Youth Association for Democracy in Malawi (YADEMA). Wapona Kita and Leon Matanda were the guys. The guys talked the youth, ate the youth, and laughed the youth. 

Meeting the two for the first time (since communication had been only through the phone) at Chanco's Room K was a time well-spent. It is at this meeting that youth political activism was maddeningly live. 

Today, some months on, it feels tenable to argue that the Malawi youth have the potential to reclaim the political glory long lost and perhaps forgotten. Today, one year on, it looks like the future have the perfect chances to revive the true youth political spirit by organizing themselves through inclusively participative youth groups like YADEMA and Walking With The Youth.

Unlike Walking With The Youth, YADEMA has tested Malawi's political uncertainities at the time the late wa Mutharika was increasingly fiercely autocratic, and it emerged ever stronger and stronger. Again, YADEMA has the formal links necessary for an explosive nation-building youth agenda though its largest membership and voice is more virtual than it is human--perhaps a critical are to look into.

Fruitful youth political engagement is possible in Malawi only the youth reshape their articulation of vision and relinquish their heavy reliance on the 'old guards' to voluntarily leave the political space for them--something they old guards for sure cannot do. This engagement is possible in two fronts; first, there is need to re-organize the mental space and redefine politics in their own terms though with strong leaning to current political events--local or international, and second, to de-link youth groups from political parties by establishing an independently solid source of funds.

This is cause worth the support of the government, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), human rights organizations, and the corporate world because without molding the youth for the desired politics, the Malawi nation runs the risk of molding political destruction.

Unless there is re-focusing on the part of the youth and their groups should there be real escape from the chains of political party youth cannibalism characterizing Malawi political parties. It is hoped that amongst the youth there will rise strong-willed and value-driven youths who will lead the youth--the abused majority--in their calculated action towards reclaiming Malawi's long-lost political space for the youth and for the nation, and so smoothly with extensive external non-political support.

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