LILONGWE, MALAWI - Malawians from across the country on Sunday celebrated the 50-year anniversary of their country's independence from Britain with traditional dances, an international friendly football match and prayers.
The national event was held at Civo Stadium in the capital Lilongwe, where representatives from various neighboring countries were in attendance. So were tens of thousands of people who were ferried in by government vehicles from across the country to view the events.
The celebrations coincided with the 20-year anniversary of the introduction of multi-party politics. A day-long series of events started Sunday morning with a national prayer service at Bingu International Conference Centre in Lilongwe.
Clergy from various dominations prayed for peace and prosperity for Malawi, one of Africa’s poorest countries, and one of the world’s least developed.
Statistics show that more than 65 percent of Malawians still live below the poverty level – which is less than $2 per day.
Bishop leads prayer for the poor
Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe was among those leading the prayer service.
“We pray, heavenly Father, that it is time we put to end all the sufferings of our people, so that they will taste the real meaning of independence as envisioned by those leaders who have gone before us. We pray, Lord, that fifty years may teach us to realize that this should have been the time we developed our nation.”
Bvumbwe urged political leaders to unite in developing the country for the next five decades and avoid divisive politics that would prevent development.
The celebrations at Civo Stadium ended with dances, concerts, and police and army parades.
Not all Malawians supported what they viewed as celebrations that were too expensive for a poor country. They said the bill – about $370,000 – could have been used to fund pro-poor initiatives.
On Saturday, a column in a local weekly newspaper complained that instead of celebrating, Malawians should be mourning because no progress was made over the past five decades.
Malawi’s new president replies to critics
In his speech at the event, President Peter Mutharika replied to the article.
“When this country became independent in 1964, there was only 60 miles of tarmac road,” said Mr. Mutharika. “Now, we have 200 miles of tarmac roads. Isn’t that progress? When this country became independent, there was not a single university; now we have close to 11 universities. When this country became independent, we had four and half million people; we now have 14 million people, and the economy is able to sustain those 14 million people”
Mr. Mutharika said that those countries which have developed have relied on hard work, and he called on Malawians to roll up their sleeves in unity and with patriotism.
He urged those who only work from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and get paid for an eight-hour day to work a full day for a full day’s pay. “For those who are self-employed make sure that you are working for the benefit of this country.’
Mr. Mutharika also echoed the words of spoken by President John Kennedy at his 1963 U.S. inaugural. “As a great American John F Kennedy said, ‘Ask not what a country can do for your but what you can do for your country.’”
A friendly football match between the national team of Mozambique and Malawi ended in a one-all draw.