Government Has Led Malawians to “Bagamayo”, Not the “promised land”: Catholic Bishops

Members of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM). Credit: ECM

Catholic Bishops in Malawi have faulted the President Lazarus Chakwera-led Tonse Government for letting down citizens of the Southern African nation, getting them to a situation of misery and desperation, without any hope of decent living instead of the “promised land” promised during the political campaigns ahead of the 2020 general elections.

In their Sunday, February 25 pastoral letter titled, “The Sad Story of Malawi”, members of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) use the original meaning of the historic Tanzanian coastal town of Bagamoyo from the Kiswahili phrase “Bwaga Moyo” (lay down your heart) to illustrate the desperate situation of an average Malawian.

“In spite of all the excitement that the Tonse Government would lead Malawians to the promised land, only four years later, to the disappointment of all except the few well-connected people, Malawi has ended up at Bagamoyo – a city on the east coast of Tanzania, which when a slave arrived there, he or she lost all hope of being free again,” ECM members lament. 

Under the Presidency of Mr. Chakwera, they say, Malawians “have witnessed a glaring failure of leadership”, and as a result, “are bogged down in the same land we wanted to leave, namely the land of hunger, disease, poverty, corruption, and the like.”

“Most Malawians, except the very few well-connected ones, feel strongly that there is nothing else they can do to turn around the country or improve the deteriorating living conditions,” Catholic Bishops in Malawi further lament.


The Catholic Church leaders decry corruption, which they say “is still rampant.”

“From the top down, people with high connections are unjustly turning into multimillionaires overnight to the detriment of the majority of people who are being kept in grinding poverty,” they lament, adding that graft has entered into all areas.

According to ECM members, efforts are being made to “systematically hollow out and weaken oversight institutions, almost all of which have now been rendered useless.”

“The fight against corruption has been allowed to collapse. Shame on those who have allowed this to happen! What remains is a game of make-believe, the mere appearance of fighting corruption,” they note.

In their 14-page 11-point collective statement, Catholic Bishops in Malawi also fault the government for practicing favoritism, saying that “nepotism is also rife”.

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“Appointment of senior officers in government appears to favor one tribe or region over the others,” they lament, and add, “All Malawians are equal. During the campaign, we were told repeatedly that nepotism would be history, yet now what we see is different from what was promised.”

ECM members fault the Malawi’s government officials for engaging in “empty words” in their respective “speeches about curtailing expenditure on leadership”. They note that “in reality, nothing changes at all. Continuous excuses for travel and accumulating allowances for large entourages which drain public funds, have become the norm.”

The Catholic Church leaders highlight the situation of Malawians at the grassroots, saying, “The suffering in the villages has worsened. Some families face starvation, as they could not afford the fertilizer that was on the market, and further problems due to erratic rains.”

They continue, “Parents/guardians cannot afford school/college fees for their children/wards and many students/pupils are forced out of all levels of education. As well as an injustice to those immediately affected, this will have negative repercussions for our country going forward.”

“Our roads continue to deteriorate rapidly. For instance, main routes like the M1 and the M5 roads are an embarrassment to our nation,” they lament.


ECM members further decry victimization of senior citizens in “witchcraft-based violence and other grave human rights violations and abuses” and fault the government for being silent on the atrocities.

“Some elderly people in Malawi live in fear that their lives are in danger. Many older men and women face the reality of being victims of witchcraft-based violence and other grave human rights violations and abuses. In the year 2023 alone, 78 elderly persons were tortured and 25 were killed for being accused of practicing witchcraft,” they say.

While the cases of victimization are on the rise, the Catholic Bishops say, “there are no noticeable concrete steps by the Government to address and remedy this critical human rights problem.”

As a way forward, ECM members call for the strengthening of the justice system, with the legislators playing their role of facilitating the enactment of relevant laws.

“One avenue to ensure the provision of effective justice to elderly persons is to strengthen the legal framework. The Government has been coy on the tabling of the Elderly Persons Bill in Parliament to pass it into law,” Catholic Bishops in Malawi observe.

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The Elderly Persons Law will go a long way in helping safeguard the rights of Malawi’s senior citizens by “enhancing their security and guaranteeing their access to justice,” they say.

Malawi cannot remain on the current path, ECM members warn, and continue, “Our leaders need to stop being greedy and serve the people that put them in power.”

“We need truly empowered oversight institutions that are independent and free from political influence. Parliament needs to stop politicking and serve the people. The scenes we have seen of late have been nothing short of shame,” they say. 

“We are witnessing a serious lack of credible and visionary leadership in the country. This is the root cause of all the problems we now face. Unless the leadership stops being greedy, gets serious about governing, and vigorously tackles corruption, we will not only remain stuck in the very spot we find ourselves in now, but will sink even further,” ECM members warn.

They call for “a robust legal framework which will regulate the judiciary so that it will be accountable.”

“May the Lenten call to conversion and our celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter mark the beginning of a new dawn for all Malawians,” the Catholic Church leaders implore. 

They further implore, “May St. Joseph, the foster father of our Lord Jesus Christ, watch over our country and obtain from God a spirit of integrity, justice, patriotism, love and peace in Malawi.”

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