The 2013 Annual Ramadhan Convention was held recently towards the end of the month of Ramadhan. The event was held at Hotel Victoria and it drew various Muslim professionals, politicians and other prominent Muslim leaders from different organisations and institutions in the country.
This was the second edition of the initiative after the first convention took place in Lilongwe last year where it was resolved to make the gathering an annual event.
However, after attending the deliberations, we could not figure out the exact purpose of the event. We believe that it was a complete flop.
Firstly, after looking at the program, we failed to differentiate between the Islamic Tarbiya Program (ITP) which died and got buried in Liwonde in 2012 and this new kid on the block called Annual Ramadhan Convention.
According to Dr Eric Umar, ITP was “…a parliament where we review our situation and figure out how to conduct our affairs in order to improve the Muslim welfare in the country (sic).”
Yet the organization and format of the Annual Ramadhan Convention is just a copy and paste of that of ITP.
Secondly, during the 2012 Ramadhan Convention, organizers came up with eleven resolutions and there was no “matters arising” at this year’s convention to follow up as to what was accomplished during the year so that participants should deliberate on them and agree on the way forward.
Organisers just came up with a new theme and new topics and came up with another long list of new resolutions at the end of the convention.
Even the organizing committee chairman Alex Adam, explained with a tongue in cheek that they managed to implement at least two (out of eleven!) of the 2012 resolutions, citing financial constraints and some of the resolutions being of long term in nature.
The question is, why then come up with another set of over ten new more resolutions when the committee has an 80% failure rate.
Thirdly, the theme of the 2013 Annual Ramadhan Convention; Promoting the Youth for Meaningful Contribution Towards Political and Social Economic Development, good as it was, was thrown out of the window.
Apart from the keynote address from Dr Imran Shareef and Prof Ronald Mangani’s topic, none of the other topics presented were related to the theme. Further, not even a single resolution was drawn to directly tackle the issue of how the youth will be promoted for their meaningful contribution in the country!
Fourthly, we observed that the Convention was just another platform for those who have issues with the Muslims Association of Malawi (MAM).
Muslims in the country had high expectations of the Annual Ramadhan Convention that it would be a forum where practical solutions will be deliberated upon and agree on its implementation.
It was bad to let those who shy away from contesting in MAM elections and do not contribute even a single penny for its operations to air out their frustrations on the operations of MAM, yet they expect the organization to implement their dream projects that are merely in their heads. MAM was never even given a chance to defend itself, which is against the shariah and rules of natural justice.
Some of the instigators were even tried and tested at MAM at various positions and they failed miserably yet they were given a green light to bad mouth the Muslim mother body.
Facilitators spend a lot of time in researching and preparing the topics that they present at the gatherings and it is a mockery that their input is just summarized into unpractical resolutions that will never see the light of the day. The same applies to individuals and organizations that fund such functions.
A lot of the youth that assembled at Victoria Hotel waited in vain on how they can actively contribute to the national course as articulated by the key note address and Ronald Mangani’s brilliant presentation. (Mangani cleverly threw away the topic that he was given by the organizers because it was not relevant to the theme and came up with his own.)
Further, we are of the view that the organizers lack mandate and capacity to implement the many resolutions that they draft. The high implementation failure rate speaks for itself. At least the ITP had the mandate from the inactive Muslim Youth Assembly (MYA).
In conclusion, it would be unfair to the organizers who spend their time, financial and material resources in organizing such events if we do not offer an alternative model on how to conduct future programs.
The Way Forward
Firstly, get a mandate from prominent Muslim organizations in the country, which have the human and financial capacity to implement the resolutions that are agreed at the Convention.
Secondly, choose topics that are directly related to the chosen theme so that participants and facilitators should not lose focus on what they are there for.
Thirdly, come up with a single resolution (or a maximum of three) that is in line with the theme. Draft terms of reference on what has to be done in order to implement and achieve that resolution and give that to the organizations that agreed to partner with you in organizing the Convention.
The organizers can therefore be regularly following up with the contact persons in those organizations on how they are implementing the resolution.
Fourthly, during the following year’s Convention allocate time for reporting and reviewing on the previous year’s resolutions.
We hope that by following this kind of approach (our readers may provide other better suggestions), the Annual Ramadhan Convention can easily evolve itself as a true parliament where the problems that Muslims are facing in the country are deliberated upon and solutions identified.
People will be keen to know what was achieved the previous year and see what they can offer so that the new resolution is as well implemented without fail.
It will no longer be a talk shop where facilitators outsmart each other in ridiculing MAM or other Muslim organizations but will be there to offer practical solutions that will collectively benefit Muslims in the country.
You shall see that even attendance of participants will significantly improve because there is a natural instinct where humans like to be associated with success! Everyone will eventually forget about the aversion that they have with most of these Muslim organizations, and as one nation, the Muslim ummah shall move forward in Malawi.
We expect therefore next year’s gathering to offer solutions, and not draft unnecessary numerous resolutions otherwise, there is no reason to conduct such functions.