By Moses Masiye
Government set aside March 3rd, to commemorate the lives of gallant Malawians who offered their all for us and the country. Their courage and determination played a vital role so that we become a sovereign state- Malawi. They are called the martyrs.
Origen, one of the early Church fathers defines a martyr as one who of his own free will chooses to die for the sake of something. He says the word has a religious connotation and refers to the 300 years that the early Church suffered persecution from the Roman empire.
However the encyclopedia defines a martyr as:- ‘a person who defends a principle, even though it means sacrificing many things including one’s life.’
Our own martyrs were people just like us, with a normal life, but rose up one day to fight for the freedom of the country from any sort of oppressive rule.
The list is just endless. Some notable and many others died unnoticed, but still, they contributed towards the freedom we claim to have today.
One other notable martyr is Reverend John Chilembwe who in 1915 led the revolution against the white oppressive rule. Born a Muslim in 1871 and later converted to Christianity in 1893, died fighting the colonial British oppression after all diplomatic options failed to assist.
Another Ngoni chief died after he was thrown into detention in present day Nsanje from Ntcheu in 1953 for saying no to imposition of federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland
The other most notable was the 1959 clampdown after government forces opened fire at the jetty in Nkhata bay. Villagers, students, civil servants just to mention some, marched to the District commissioner’s office on March 3rd, 1959 only to be welcomed by muzzle loaders and rifles that mercilessly spat death on about 31 Malawians. They protested against the arrest of fellow Malawians in the likes of Hastings Kamuzu Banda. This was an effort to force the government of Sir Robert Armitage through the Nkhatabay district commissioner then John Brooke to release the detainees.
Brook on the contrary ordered soldiers to open fire and the protester scrambled for dear life as others like pregnant Whiteness Nyabanda fell down and died.
The prisoners were not released and some were rounded up and thrown into local prisons and some in Zimbabwe.
13 months later, Dr Kamuzu Banda was released in April 1960, and he this time around asked Malawians for peace. Malawi got independence on July 6, 1964.
However, many other school of thoughts say Dr Banda’s rule did not provide the desired freedom.
It is alleged that over 18 thousand innocent Malawians who tried to fight his autocratic rule were fed to crocodiles, perished in jail or in exile.
This was another chunk of martyrs who fought for democracy we have now.
But do we have all the freedom in this democratic era that we could stand tall and lament? That is open for opinion, but all in all, we have the martyrs who gave in their lives for our independence, freedom and democracy.
It could be a futile initiative to list them all. Let those who deserve the title of a martyr, be honoured.
May their blood, the tear, and any iota of anguish suffered for our freedom and democracy- be appreciated and honoured.
Rest in peace Malawian martyrs.
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