May 16, 2006

Mausoleum for founding President Banda

President Bingu wa Mutharika has inaugurated a mausoleum worth $600.000 to honour founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda at a colourful military and prayer ceremony attended by over 10.000 people. The two-storey complex was opened amidst mixed reactions about the poor human rights record of Banda, in contrast to his role to bring independence to the former Nyasaland, from Britain in 1964. There was no mention of Banda`s rights record, which for years overshadowed his role to gain freedom. Clerics from Moslem, Hindu and Christian faiths, who led the solemn prayers for Banda, skirted to mention gross human rights abuses under his regime.

"We Malawians have finally given our first head of state and government the respect that he deserves...it is befitting that we remember him in this way," Mutharika told the cheering crowd that witnessed the unveiling of the mausoleum. Mutharika, who is Malawi's third leader since independence, observed that there were previous attempts to obliterate the name of Kamuzu Banda from the minds of Malawians and history. He was apparently referring to his predecessor Bakili Muluzi, who promised to build the mausoleum after Banda died in November 1997 at the age of 99, but plans were held up for lack of funds. Muluzi was a strong critic of Banda who referred to his rule as a legacy of brutality, torture and gross abuse of human rights. "My government will continue to honour this true Malawi hero," Mutharika said. The Malawian leader hailed Banda, saying during his 30-year rule Malawi was able to feed itself and that the country started begging for food after Banda left government in 1994.

The state-of-the-art mausoleum will include a library chronicling the life and times of Banda as well as lecture room where tourists and Malawians will have a guided virtual tour on the life of the first president. (Sapa/Xinhua, China)

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