France on Saturday decorated Blantyre Malabada legislator and former Cabinet minister Aaron Sangala with the Knight of National Order of Merit for his efforts in promoting French language and culture in Malawi.
French Ambassador Richard Boidin, decorating Sangala as the first Malawian to get the knighthood that was previously awarded to Senegal’s independence president, poet and philosopher Léopold Sédar Senghor and Australian-British singer and actress Kylie Minogue, among other world figures, said the honour is normally bestowed on French nationals.
He said: “On behalf of French President Emmanuel Macron, I hereby present you the ‘diplome’ and insignia for this high honour that is reserved for French citizens and foreigners working for the promotion of French culture and language.”
Sangala taught French, drama, music and Chichewa and joined the French Embassy in 1981 for four years, before moving to the now defunct French Cultural Centre in Blantyre where he worked for about 20 years.
He said he was elated to receive the honour and dedicated it to his parents, wife and James Fredrick Sangala—his grandfather and one of the founders of Malawi liberation movement the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC), the forerunner of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
Said Sangala: “The journey began in room 13 at HHI where I joined a French class in 1973. When [Dr Hastings] Kamuzu Banda got to power, he went on a European tour to get support, then French President Charles de Gaulle offered a 15-year contract to set up the French Cultural Centre and train teachers of French. I was lucky to be one of them.”
The former minister of Defence felt it was his mastery of French that helped convince former president Bingu wa Mutharika attain chairmanship of the African Union (AU) as he headed the team canvassing for the chairmanship.
De Gaulle initiated the award in 1963.