Uproar in Malawi

May 17, 1992

When the International Monetary Fund cut off aid to Kenya until human rights improvements were made, President Daniel Arap Moi legalized the opposition. Now that the IMF and donor nations have cut off aid other than humanitarian famine relief to Malawi, for the same reason, President H. Kamuzu Banda should do the same.

First he will have to show that he knows it happened.

Dr. Banda, the founder of the Southeast African country and its leader since 1963, a year before independence, is officially 86 years old although unofficial accounts have him older. He never sees his real country, only what in another century and culture were called Potemkin Villages. His advisers do not bring him bad news.

Speaking to a sparse and unenthusiastic crowd commemorating his birthday as Kamuzu Day, he said recently that this month's violence killing from 22 to 38 Malawi citizens was "generated from outside the country." Actually, the unrest was generated by a labor dispute in Blantyre and sprung from demands for higher wages and for democratic reforms. The Banda government responded with a higher minimum wage, not with the desired political changes.

It must be said that neither the United States nor any other country knows how to punish a regime without hurting its people. Malawi is suffering from drought and its people need the $170 million in humanitarian aid that was pledged by the donor nations. But pressure to make the regime more humane and responsive to its people is justified and should have positive effects.

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