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Malawi brings back old flag

June 1, 2012

Malawi's parliament has approved a bill to revert to the old independence flag, two years after the late president Bingu wa Mutharika changed it.


The old independence flag consisted of black, green and red horizontal strips, with half a red sun rising out of the red and into a black 'sky'. The new flag was made up of a full white sun on black, flanked by red and green. 

Augustine Magolowondo works for the  Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy in Lilongwe, Malawi. DW asked him how Malawians had been reacting to the decision to restore the old flag.

This has been very much welcomed by the majority of Malawians. There was a public outcry when the Bingu wa Mutharika administration changed the flag. People felt they hadn't been consulted, people felt the reasons were not adequate and at this point, people feel it is just proper to resort to the original flag   

Why was the flag changed in the first place?

The argument by the previous administration, in particular the late president, was that one of the symbols, the rising sun, represented a country that was just emerging and that, at this point, it was no longer necessary to have a symbol that represents a young emerging country that is struggling, but a country that has progressed and matured, a country that has established itself. (In short) a country that was better represented by a full sun. It was also about representing what at the time was branded as Malawi's economic miracle, because of the progress that was made in the first five years of the Bingu wa Mutharika administration.

African Union (AU) Chairman and Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika addresses a news conference after the closing ceremony of the AU summit in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa
Malawians are still trying to come to terms with the legacy of late Präsident Bingu wa MutharikaImage: Reuters

Many MPs didn't want this change. Why didn't they fight for the old flag?

Opposition political parties, the Malawi Congress Party and the United Democratic Front actually walked out because they did not want to be associated with that particular change. After that, in a pastoral letter written by the Catholic Church, which is one of the dominant religious institutions in Malawi, the Catholic bishops were very critical of the change. Civil society organizations also made their opposition very clear in public protests.

How significant is the decision to restore the old flag?

By reverting to the old flag what the current administration is effectively saying is that it doesn't agree with the argument that was advanced (at the time). In other words the current administration is saying "yes, Malawi has been independent for so many years, but Malawi has not reached a point where it can be regarded as a fully developed nation that can be represented by those kind of symbols, a country that has arrived in terms of progress and prosperity." The other thing is that because of the public outcry, it is, of course, very significant for the current administration to demonstrate that the way the change was made by the old administration was undemocratic.       

Interview: Asumpta Lattus/mc       

Editor: Daniel Pelz