On May 20 this year, Malawians went into the polls to elect their president, member of parliament and a councillor.
Unlike other past elections, this year’s elections have really been a “game changer.”
Like citizens of this country, Muslims too, took part in the elections which though have been marred by several challenges.
To the dismay, Muslims’ preferred candidates didn’t make it. This is because they went into the polls divided.
Some wanted to vote for Atupele Muluzi who was the only Muslim candidate while others opted for outgoing President Joyce Banda who was described as “too close” to Muslims and because she is a Yao, the tribe which comprises 95 percent of Muslims.
Those who opted for Joyce Banda argued that if a Muslim wins, it would have been difficult for Muslims to benefit as it happened during the country’s first multi-party democracy president Dr Bakili Muluzi who is a Muslim.
During his regime, Muluzi was under intense pressure as the time he tried to develop the Muslim community people of other denominations accused him of wanting to Islamise the country. This is the scenario which people feared and left Atupele for JB.
Those who supported Atupele argued that they couldn’t vote for JB because she is a woman and Islam prohibits women to be leaders in front of men. They also argued that Atupele was the only Muslim candidate hence Muslims had to join his “Agenda for change.”
Unfortunately, this didn’t help either as both two had the same strongholds and ended up splitting the votes thereby giving a chance to other candidates.
Lack of this unity and mutual understanding, the community ended wasting votes of about 3 million registered Muslims. At the end, the country witnessed winning of another candidate whom Muslims didn’t expect.
Unlike their counterparts of other denominations, Muslims decision was made on who is leading the party and which one has more Muslims.
For example, United Democratic Front (UDF), a party which was founded and still currently led by a Muslim, was against anyone representing other parties without considering whether the candidate is a Muslim or not.
It preferred supporting candidates of other denominations saying because they have been loyal to the party and leave Muslims whom some of them were new so couldn’t be trusted.
As for JB’s People’s Party, the problem was the same. Those Muslims who were already in the party didn’t want to help the newbies. Being in government, they had all the chances to be able to help their friends but they didn’t.
Because of this, we have seen low Muslim representation in the August House as most Muslims failed miserably. Some lacked both financial and material support from the party.
Some of the old gurus also failed to make it, Allah punished them.
This is in contrast with other denominations who supported all their church members regardless of which party they belong to. They organised a series of meeting, gave them both financial and material support and they didn’t sleep making sure that at least half of the member parliaments should be members of their church. This is not for law makers only, they did for the presidential candidate too.
Sadly, as our friends were doing this, Muslims were busy pointing fingers on each other to the extent of closing the office of Muslim Association of Malawi accusing it of being partisan.
As our friends made special khutbas (sermon) to tell their members which candidate they should vote for, Muslims were busy distributing pamphlets and letters lobbying people to force the MAM National Chairman to resign – what a sick society!
The most painful thing though is that those who represented the Muslim community in the outgoing government didn’t also take opportunity to assist their fellow Muslims by fielding them in some important government portfolios despite being in influential positions.
Currently, the Muslim community has well educated Muslims specialised in different fields but they are not exposed hence difficult to penetrate in government.
Now that the elections are over, Muslims have to think of a lot of things and strategise who do they want to be in 2019’s elections.
Unity is the first thing to consider. Muslims should be united and be focused. This is not time to force someone to belong to a certain party rather think of how many Muslims should we put in each political party in the country so that we have a reasonable representation in the Parliament.
A task force should be set and its first assignment is to get the names of the Muslims who have failed to make it this this year and add others to the list so that there are at least five Muslims in each party and in each district.
The task force should also be responsible for sourcing funds to support those candidates in subsequent elections.
Nonetheless, these elections have been a missed opportunity for Muslims because of being short sighted.
Views expressed in this article are solely for the author and do not represent those of this website nor its editorial staff