Sunday, 15 July 2012

Something wrong with Malawi civil society's goal for July 20 protests commemorations

The Malawi Civil Society’s goal for the planned commemoration of the victims of the July 20, 2011 police shootings during mass demonstrations over economic and political governance issues suggests the organisers have no clear idea of what they intend to achieve.

Zodiakonline of July 15, 2012 is quoting Chairperson of the organizing team (of the commemorations) Mr Moses Mkandawire as saying the main message at the event, to be held in Mzuzu, is reconciliation and forgiveness. He further says victims and families of those that died in the July 20 shootings will be brought together so that they can 'reconcile'. Now, there emerges an indication of something not done right.

In basic terms, reconciliation suggests two (or more) parties that had initially crossed paths agreeing to leave their grudges against each other, misunderstanding, fighting or hatred behind and move ahead to live in peace again. A reconciliation effort, therefore, whether as a onetime event or as a process, cannot leave out any key concerned party if that effort is to make sense and bear fruit.

In the July 20, 2011 deaths, there are several significant players but the key ones are the victims and their relations on one hand and the police, who carried out the shootings, on the other.

Unlike in an effort that takes the form of a process over a period, for example a month, a year or even years, in a onetime event as has been planned by the Civil Society, both parties – the victims’ side and the police - ought to be brought together so that they can talk to each other if meaningful reconciliation is to be achieved.  

The event at Katoto Freedom Park will only bring together the victims' side. No police representation. It is inconceivable, therefore, that the Civil Society hope that there will be reconciliation when a key player in the issue does not face the other party. With whom will the victims or their families be reconciling? Nobody! In short, there will be no reconciliation secured. While reconciliation and forgiveness is a good message, the idea of bringing only the injured party makes it obvious right before the event even takes place that it is bound to be a wasted effort.

With this in mind, I am inclined to argue that the organisers of the commemoration have demonstrated a lapse in their planning: a weak conception of the goal that they want  to achieve.

The Civil Society must have first thought of what tactic – public commemoration – to employ before they even decided what goal to achieve. The organisers’ goal, therefore, seems to be an afterthought for fear of being caught holding an event without anything in mind. That is a sure way to failure.

This could have been avoided if the organisers had given their goal enough thought, especially by focusing on what it would take to have that goal achieved i.e. the participation of all key parties. That is how Public Relations would guide the planning of the event.


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