The people of Malawi have spoken. They have given former opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera the mandate to lead them for the next four years.
Dr Chakwera’s swearing-in on Sunday was the culmination of a dramatic reversal of fortune for his predecessor, Peter Mutharika, whose victory in May last year was overturned by the Constitutional Court over fraud allegations.
This was the second African country to have presidential poll results overturned in court after Kenya in 2017. But Malawians have scored a first; in the Kenyan scenario, the incumbent, President Uhuru Kenyatta, went on to reclaim his seat after the former Prime Minister Raila Odinga-led Opposition coalition Nasa boycotted the repeat polls on the ground that the electoral commission lacked capacity to deliver clean elections.
What has happened in Malawi is a statement that democracy and the rule of law are possible in Africa. For decades, the region’s populations have resigned to fate, allowing oppressive leaders to rig elections or change the constitution to perpetuate their stay in power.
The judiciary and legislature are subdued and forced to do the bidding of the political elite. The same leaders preside corruption that condemns their people to misery.
While congratulating Dr Chakwera, we remain cautiously optimistic that he will keep his promise of restoring the citizens’ faith in government.
Many have made similar promises only to morph into monsters. The challenges Malawi, one of Africa’s poorest countries, faces are innumerable, worsened by the coronavirus.
As for his predecessor, it is time he let go. The country can ill-afford another round of electoral bickering. In any case, his first rise to power itself was contested as he essentially inherited the top seat left vacant by his brother Mbingu Mutharika’s death.