30 years of democracy,is Malawi any better?

A week ago, the Political Science Association held their third biennial conference in Mangochi under the theme ‘30th Anniversary of Multiparty Democracy: Reflections on Malawi’s Governance, Politics and Development.’ It was such an enriching discussion of essentially taking stock of Malawi’s democracy—looking at the highs, the lows and everything in between.

Generally, political scientists that spoke at the meeting seemed to agree that democracy is a desired form of government compared to military rule or a one-party system. They also somehow agreed that since Malawi attained democracy in 1994, the country has made tremendous strides in politics, governance and development. However, more could have been done if it wasn’t for corruption and culture of impunity.

While generally many Malawians also agree that democracy is better than other forms of government, there are some who are nostalgic about the past, put succinctly, the one-party system they wish they could go back to the old time. They have their reasons, albeit good ones for feeling nostalgic about the past that those who lived through it and experienced the not-so-good part of its past would vehemently disagree with them. But such is the beauty of democracy; it has given people the freedom of opinion and expression.

Malawi has come a long way since the introduction of multiparty democracy in 1994. The country has had a tumultuous political history, with a one-party dictatorship that lasted for 31 years. Since the introduction of multiparty democracy, Malawi has made significant strides towards political stability, economic development and good governance.

One of the most remarkable achievements of Malawi’s 30 years of multiparty democracy is the consolidation of democratic institutions. The country has held six presidential and parliamentary elections since 1994.

Another significant development in Malawi’s 30 years of multiparty democracy has been the expansion of civil society and the media. Civil society organisations and the media have played a critical role in holding government accountable and promoting transparency and good governance. The government has recognised the importance of civil society and the media and has worked to create an enabling environment where the civil society and media work without always looking over their shoulders.

Despite these achievements, the country still faces significant challenges. One of the most pressing challenges is corruption. It is endemic and undermines good governance and economic development. The establishment of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) was seen as a solution to ending corruption but over the years, every regime has worked so hard to undermine and weaken the ACB. Political interference has rendered the ACB almost incapable of independently discharging its duties. In the end, it is the ordinary Malawian who has had to pay the heavy price.

30 years of democracy, Malawi should have done better and more. In the future, more action rather than political rhetoric will be needed to move Malawi from the current status of institutionalised corruption, high levels of unemployment, high poverty levels and a stunted economy.n

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