At exactly 11am yesterday people that welcomed President Peter Mutharika’s arrival at the Memorial Tower in Lilongwe stopped cheering, the birds stopped singing and so did the military band: there was total silence that even the Malawi flag and that of the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) flew softly.
The moment of silence at the Remembrance Day commemorations in Lilongwe took two minutes with two heavy gunshots in between. It marked 98 years since, at 11 o’clock in the morning of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, warring factions reached a truce that ended World War I.
The Remembrance Day, a global annual event, is meant to pay tribute to soldiers that fought in World War I and II. While other commemorations were held at Cobbe Barracks in Zomba and Moyale Barracks in Mzuzu, the main event was conducted in Lilongwe.
After the minutes of silence, Mutharika, Army Commander Griffin Supuni-Phiri, deputy Inspector General of Police responsible for Operations Rodney Jose, members of the diplomatic corps and others laid wreaths at the Memorial Tower which sits magnificently at Area 18 with former President Kamuzu Banda’s statue nearby.
During the wreath-laying moment, it was 84-year-old war veteran James Matupa who stole the show. He marched majestically and saluted Mutharika with menacing energy as the sizeable crowd ululated and cheered.
“I was overwhelmed to be part of this event because God continues to protect me after I fought in Japan during World War II,” he told The Nation in an interview.
He further said the Remembrance Day should remind Malawians that war is not a solution to the political differences that rock the country.
“These commemorations should be a reminder that we must not solve our differences through violence, but dialogue,” he said.
Speaking prior to the commemorations on Friday, the Army Commander said apart from the World War veterans, the Remembrance Day is also meant to honour those that died in peacekeeping missions.
“There are several military campaigns that our soldiers were involved in. Some fought in Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. All these must be remembered on this day,” Supuni-Phiri said.
Speaking at a fundraising golf tournament for the veterans, Vice-President Saulos Chilima called for more support towards the war veterans, most of whom stay in barracks and others in their homes.
“These are the people that fought for the peace that we are enjoying today. It is, therefore, important that we support them always,” he said. n