President Peter Mutharika urged Malawians to remain united and work hard to develop the nation as the country celebrated 50 years of independence at Civo Stadium in Lilongwe yesterday.
Mutharika’s message followed a similar call by members of the clergy at a National Worship Service held in commemoration of the golden jubilee, where they said Malawi now needs mature politics whereby both ruling and opposition politicians focus on national unity and development.
Mutharika touted the country’s political and democratic governance as a sign of progress in the past 50 years.
“Some have said instead of celebrating, we should be mourning. I beg to differ. We have had elections described as free and fair. Malawi has remained peaceful with no ethnic or political conflicts,” he said.
Mutharika added: “It doesn’t matter what percentage I got [in last election]. I hope to be president for everybody.”
The golden jubilee celebrations were held under the theme: Transforming our country with a shared vision, renewed commitment to hard work and integrity for sustainable development.
Before the stadium celebrations, Mutharika attended the inter-denominational National Worship Service held at the Bingu International Conference Centre together with government and opposition leaders and dignitaries who included members of the diplomatic corps.
The Right Reverend Brighton Malasa, the prayers’ conductor of worship, said Malawians must be proud that they have lived together peacefully over the past 50 years.
“We, as Malawians, have proved to be peace-loving people, as demonstrated by our tolerance for one another and our patience in times of difficulties. We have every reason to thank God for this and we need to congratulate ourselves as well on responding to the gift of peace and coexistence given to us by God,” he stated.
But Malasa said it is imperative for Malawians to acknowledge the mistakes and failures made so far and to learn from them.
He pointed out that while the nation achieved political independence, it has not yet gained economic independence, as 40 percent of Malawi’s budget is dependent on donors who have sometimes forced government to follow some policies not liked by most Malawians.
Malasa said Malawians need to be more united in order to find solutions to all challenges.
At the stadium, Mutharika lit a jubilee torch atop a large clay pot emblazoned with the Malawi at 50 logo to symbolise the country’s future, but events to commemorate the golden jubilee of the country’s independence were poorly organised.
The event, which followed 10 days of preparations by a committee chaired by Vice-President Saulos Chilima, was expected to start at 11am, according to the official programme, but it only went underway after 2pm when President Mutharika’s convoy entered the stadium.
As a result, the programme was cut short and the many Malawians who thronged the stadium did not get their time’s worth of entertainment as independence celebrations have symbolised in the past.
There were no traditional dances as is tradition, only Army, Immigration and Police parades as well as a football match between Malawi’s Flames and Mozambique’s Mambas.