Cabinet quota upsets Malawi Muslims

Malawi Muslims are disappointed by their poor representation in the new cabinet, saying this undermines religious balance in the southern African country while experts see this as a wake-up call for Muslims.

There is a total under-representation of Muslims, Alhaj Yusuf Kanyamula, Chairman of the umbrella Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM), told

President Bingu wa Mutharika unveiled on June 17, his new 43-member cabinet featuring only two Muslims from his ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The rest of the ministers are Christians from various denominations.

Mutharika, a Catholic who won a second five-year term on May 19, dropped several Muslim ministers from the new lineup.

During his first term, he had six Muslim ministers in addition to then Vice President Dr Cassim Chilumpha.

The umbrella MAM described Muslims representation in the new government as the lowest since the introduction of pluralistic politics in the country in 1994.

But one of the two Muslim ministers maintained that appointments to the cabinet were based on qualifications not religion.

I am a Malawian, just like all my Christian counterparts, Sidik Mia, who has been moved from the Irrigation and Water Development Ministry to the National Defense Ministry, told IOL.

The President has appointed me due to my capability. My religion has not influenced the President to hire my services.

While we appreciate that ministers are not appointed based on religious considerations, but the aspect of balance based on religion cannot be completely undermined, insisted Kanyamula, the MAM leader.

In Malawi, officially a secular state, Islam is the second largest faith after Christianity.

According to state figures, Muslims constitute 12 percent of the population, though Muslim organizations put the figure at nearly 40 percent.

Wake Up

Rafique Hajat, executive director of the Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI), was not surprised with the appointment of only two Muslims to the new cabinet.

He believes this makes a natural outcome of the low engagement of Muslims in the political sphere.

It is now becoming a norm in Malawi that if one is not a Member of Parliament, it is not possible to be appointed a minister, explained Hajat, a Muslim.

Therefore, if we had a good number of Muslims in parliament, the number of Muslims could probably have been more than this.

During the May 19 general elections,

Only 16 Muslims made it to the countrys National Assembly during the Mays general elections.

Hajat believes the new cabinet should serve as a wakeup call to Muslims in the country.

We need to take part in politics if we are to be fully represented at cabinet level, said head of the human rights and good governance think tank.

We cant be appointed ministers while we are seated in our homes.

Post published in: Zimbabwe News

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