Malawi president Chakwera and his Kenyan connection

Saturday July 04 2020

Malawi's President Lazarus Chakwera. PHOTO | AMOS GUMULIRA | AFP


Malawi’s new president Lazarus Chakwera is not a stranger in Kenya. In his distinguished academic life, the former Superintendent (Bishop) of the Assemblies of God of Malawi taught at the church’s Global University, which is domiciled at the Buru Buru-based East African School of Theology (EAST).

Here, Mr Chakwera – who took over from Mr Peter Mutharika last week after a repeat presidential election ordered by the court – lectured at master’s level, teaching many Kenyans in the process.

“Yes, he is well known around the church circles here. In fact, if you next meet him, ask him about Buru Buru,” says Pastor Edward Munene of the International Christian Centre, Mombasa, an Assemblies of God congregation.

Mr Chakwera has been a commencement speaker at the Kitengela-based Kenya Assemblies of God University and was the guest speaker when Bishop Peter Njiiri was named the chancellor of the university.

In addition, Mr Chakwera has supervised many Kenyans when he was   in charge of PhD at the Pan African Theology School (PATHS) based at the West Africa School of Advanced Theology in Lome, Togo.



The Rev Leo Kinuthia, who is currently pursuing his doctorate at PATHS, says of Mr Chakwera: “He is a transparent and transformational leader. These are necessary attributes which he will need as president because now he will be leading both Christians and non-Christians alike,” says Rev Kinuthia, who serves at the International Christian Centre, Nairobi, another Assemblies of God congregation.

Pastor Munene recalls his meeting with Mr Chakwera: “I met Rev Lazarus Chakwera at a consultative forum where we were discussing how to reach Africa with the gospel message. I loved his sermon and the challenge he gave us to lay down our lives for the sake of transforming the continent. He was the General Superintendent (Bishop) of the Malawi Assemblies of God at that time. His humility and wisdom inspired me greatly.”

The pastor said he was excited to see a fellow clergyman stepping into this new role. “I commit to pray for him. I believe he will lead this nation as a leader of integrity.”

In this Kenyan connection, Mr Chakwera joins a club of people who have lived or worked in Kenya and later rose to be presidents in their own countries. The list includes Ms Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, who once narrated how she used to buy second-hand clothes in Kibera’s Toi Market.


She was President of Liberia between 2006 and 2018. Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni has also previously talked about his life in Nairobi before he became President.

One of Mr Chakwera’s predecessors, Dr Joyce Banda, was a young woman living in Nairobi when the political bug bit her, and which later catapulted her to be the president of Malawi from 2012 to 2014. As a guest speaker when Kenya celebrated its 50th year of Independence on December 12, 2013, Ms Banda, greeted the crowd at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium in fluent Kiswahili — declaring she was also a mwananchi (citizen).

She revealed how she came to Kenya in 1975 and lived in Nairobi’s Kileleshwa Estate.

“I want to say thank you to Kenya because this country had a lot of influence on my life and whatever I have achieved started from here,” said Ms Banda, who was replaced by Mr Mutharika in 2014.

Mr Chakwera also had a precedent in Kenya to thank for his victory when the High Court in Malawi, when ruling in an election petition in his favour, cited the 2017 presidential election petition filed by opposition leader Raila Odinga against President Uhuru Kenyatta.