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Malawians on the world stage: academic honors, music, science and technology

There is one discernible theme running through the Malawian blogosphere in the month of May. This round-up focuses mostly on what these bloggers have written in this month, now approaching its end. One Malawian has received international honors for his contributions to world scholarship, while two female Malawian musicians have launched their latest music albums outside Malawi. One Malawian scientist calls for the Malawi government to put in place mechanisms to prepare for the looming disaster that might possibly be triggered by global warming, and two Malawians have made their mark in the world of technology. It has been a month of Malawians showcasing their mettle on the world stage, and here with it all.

Honoring a world class scholar

Blogger Kondwani Munthali, a Malawian journalist currently a Niemann Fellow at Harvard University, celebrates the news that a Malawian scholar has recently been honored by Rhodes University of South Africa, and that a former Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) journalist will be teaching at Rhodes University. The two Malawians being celebrated are Thandika Mkandawire and Joe Mlenga. Mkandawire was recently awarded a Senior Doctorate by Rhodes University for his world class scholarship in development studies and political economy. Mkandawire has been the Director of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) since 1998. The other Malawian is Joe Mlenga, who recently announced on his blog that he had resigned from MBC. Munthali, himself a journalist with the MBC, writes:

I wish to congratulate Prof. Mkandawire and Mlenga for the Rhodes Honours. This comes to mind how quickly our great poets and academics such as Jack Mapanje and David Rubadiri whom I have heard from so many people here at Harvard and beyond asking. Wole Sonyinka and others have become symbols of their nations and ambassadors promoting good. Apart from the two, people like Goodall Gondwe made an impact at the IMF, early May 2007 when I visited the institution I heard fascinating stories on how he used to move from office to office meeting his juniors and seniors alike to hear them. I was proud to be a Malawian when a room full of World Bank and IMF officials, one screamed, “Malawi is unique, it has its best leadership in the Presidency and Minister of Finance.” I hope the this Leadership given at the global institutions will extend into recognition of our achievers and use them as ambassadors to promote Malawi's values.

Music for the world

Two Malawian female musicians this month launched their latest albums, one in Nairobi, Kenya, and the other in Stockholm, Sweden. In Kenya it was gospel artist Chrissy Kamthunzi, while in Sweden it was musician Fingani Mphande. Victor Kaonga, Global Voices author, witnessed the Stockholm affair, and wrote on his blog:

She says she decided to launch here [Sweden] because she did not have adequate time to do so in Malawi as she was supposed to leave for studies in Sweden. Fingani's album which has ten tracks (most in Chichewa and others in English) can be bought on Radio Yako (www.radioyako.com).

In another posting, Victor writes about the Global Day of Prayer, Sunday May 27, arguing that the day is unlikely to make the headlines because of its religious nature. He reflects on this important day, posting pictures of a celebration of this day last year at Silver Stadium in Lilongwe, Malawi:

PROBABLY the world's largest unity is to be reflected this Sunday on the Global Day of Prayer when people from over 190 nations will join together and pray for the world.
But to put this event in the headlines is direct rebuke to most of our global and national issues so editors prefer to keep it away. After all these are “religious things” and covering it would be ‘like promoting their faith’ they argue.

Malawi and a warmer globe

Hastings Zidana, a scientist with the Malawi National Aquaculture Centre, warns that global warming is real, and that Malawi is part of the areas in Africa that are at greater risk. He calls on government to take measures to address the problem:

My questin has been and is always “What is our role as Malawians ?” Do the parliamentarians take this issue with a priority? The image clearly shows that Malawi is in the band of “Areas at most risk”. Let us act now by putting in place necessary policy issues like-irrigation for all crop fields by the year 2030 or 2040, thats 10 yeras before the real thing is on our neck. We can do it there are several organisation dealing with global warimng and environment where, we can tap the resources let alone the credit income which they have just been written off by our creditors.

On the technology front

Malawian blogger and ICT expert Soyapi Mumba gives an update on a new program he has been working on, a search tool compatible with Forefox and Mozilla.

I've become so much interested in the integration of various content available on the web with search since I started developing SearchWith, a search tool for Firefox and Mozilla-based applications. Follow the discussion on Techmeme.

And still in the world of technology, Clement Nyirenda announces that his two papers have been accepted at two international conferences, where he hopes to go and present in September, 2007:

Today, I thank God because the two papers that I submitted to IEEE Eurocon and IEEE Africon conferences have both been accepted. IEEE Eurocon will take place in Warsaw, Poland from September 9-12 while IEEE Africon will take place in Windhoek, Namibia from September 26-28. So far, I have managed to pay the registration fees (280 EUROs) for the Poland conference. I am yet to pay for the Namibia one. I also have to look for funds so that I can travel to these two countries to present these papers.

Clement also announces in another entry that he has since returned to Malawi, having successfully finished his MScEng degree, and has resumed his teaching duties at the The Polytechnic in the University of Malawi.

Also sharing good news for a successful educational endeavor is John, on his blog Soka Liyenda. John informs his readers of his good news:

It is now very official. I will be attending Purdue University next semester. This is the best thing that has happened to me in months. Finally a sigh of relief. It has been a topsy-turvy affair so far. I graduated from DACC last night with an associate degree in Agriculture. I will be a junior at Purdue majoring in Agriculture Economics with an emphasis on Finance and Rural Development.

Unquiet on the political front

The month of May in Malawi has seen the return of a commemoration that was stopped at the dawn of the new democratic era in 1994. During Malawi’s 30 year one-party rule under Dr. Kamuzu Banda, May 14th was celebrated as Kamuzu Day, believed to be his date of birth, on paper. Breaking a long period of silence, blogger Kondwani Kamiyala reminisces over how Kamuzu appeared in the eyes of a 12 year old, the age at which Kondwani began to know about the former president:

A lot has been written about Malawi’s first Head of State, Dr Kamuzu Banda. I look back at my experience with him. This is my general view of the man. I do not seek to write or rewrite history. As a child, this is how I saw Dr Kamuzu Banda, and I transfer those childhood memories into my later life, having seen two presidents after him, and observing the lives of some politicians who were fighting against his ‘oppression’. Enjoy my Childhood Memories of Dr Kamuzu Banda. After all that is said, Kamuzu takes a new image from the eyes of a 12 year old, standard seven pupil….

And to end on this political note, blogger Pearson Nkhoma makes an argument for holding local government elections, which the government has been accused of not being committed to for a number of years now, in contravetion to a constitutional requirement:

A lot has been written about postponements of local government elections. However, with the wrangles that are resulting because of the lack of consultation in the appointment of MEC commissioners, it is inevitable that local government elections would also be postponed for another longer period. History is repeating itself, but does Malawi really need councilors. This is a question that I am trying to answer.

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