As southern Africa grapples with terrorist attacks in northern Mozambique, it is startling that Malawi Government is somehow keeping this a secret affair.
The government need not declassify sensitive information restricted by law, but respect citizens right to know how it is working to keep us safe.
The Tonse Alliance Administration came to power on a promise of open and constant engagement with citizens.
Therefore, failure to inform us about our own security creates unnecessary barriers to effective citizenship.
We are yet to be convinced why government is not openly addressing the fears of the people. Secrecy fuels speculation that exposes government’s ineptitude and poor preparedness.
Our leaders could have chosen to stay ahead of the narrative and control the false paradigms.
Last November, my show, The Great Conversation, created a special programme to keep Malawians abreast of the security issues facing the homeland. I invited international security analyst Wilson Khembo to analyse some rumors from Mozambique. He has written extensively on security matters having served the Malawi Defense Force before migrating to the UK where he obtained a master’s degree in security and terrorism.
Khembo did not mince words about the Isis-linked fighters in the Cabo Delgado Province as evidence pointed at a looming crisis with the potential to spill over to Malawi.
For some time, there have been claims of military abuses in Mozambique and locals’ exclusion from the proceeds of the region’s natural gas and mining industries.
Usually, jihadists are not only co-opted in as conscripts but also due to their religious and socio-economic grievances.
So, any careless move will likely make Malawi the next target. This is where we have to tread careful with our facts and foreign policies. Any diplomatic agenda will have immense implications on homeland security.
Choices have consequences, so the government has to decide how we can best strengthen the interplay with other nations and smart regional integration in the Southern African Development Community.
The perilous decision to establish a foreign mission in Jerusalem, a hotly contested religious site with historical implications was the most dangerous act to have ever exposed Malawi to imminent risk of terrorists attack by jihadists and religious zealots in our midst.
With our porous borders, the government needs to define new measures for the enforcement of border protection. This calls for a more nuanced look at how the socio-economic activities in our border towns and surrounding areas have contributed to the crisis.
Our young people are lured by promises of better jobs by those who come to recruit them.
In my opinion, the government should understand the condition in border communities, service provision and individual ties that transcend our frontiers.
Make new investments in digital technologies and personnel to map actions of individuals and forces such as markets and trade.
Without such interaction or cooperation, the government would not enact necessary laws and policies to regulate migration likely to fuel illegal activities, including terrorism and drug trafficking.
Most of the recruited are unemployed, so the government should swiftly begin to create industries and jobs to boost the socio-economic status of communities affected by these challenges..
However, one of the hallmarks of this administration has been lack of proper consultations and slow response to critical situations.
It is absurd for the government to even think that they can deal with security issues without citizens’ involvement.
There has to be a synergy of diversified efforts in local communities so that Malawians understand their responsibilities, rights and duties. Citizens have to be engaged and equipped to know how to identify or filter out dangerous individuals among their peers.
Malawi is a ticking bomb and any laxity in governance, coupled with rising youth unemployment and deteriorating socio-economic underdevelopment, would be a recipe for disaster.
I urge President Lazarus Chakwera and his allies—including ministers of Information, Homeland Security, Foreign Affairs and Civic Education—to rethink their approach and mastermind a new philosophy for effective leadership.