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Malawi's transition from neo-colonial rule : from a 'culture of silence to a clamour of voices?'

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The phrase a 'culture of silence' is attributed to Jerry Rawlings in the late 1980s, at a time when he was military head of state in Ghana. The irony is that he appeared to be complaining about the 'culture of silence' created by his own military regime. In a 'culture of silence' the masses are mute, that is, they are prohibited from taking part in the transformation of their society. In a neo-colonial state, a 'culture of silence' is imposed on the masses and peace and order are guaranteed by ferocious repression. The basic premise that motivates this research is that the neo-colonial state, a byproduct of the colonial state was influential in imposing the 'culture of silence' and fear in the lives of ordinary people. As such, a defining feature of the neo-colonial state, it is argued, is a 'culture of silence'. Definitions and analysis of the neocolonial state follow lines of arguments put forward by African writers such as Claude Ake, Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Mahmood Mamdani. Within this broad paradigm of neo-colonialism, and analysis of Banda's Malawi is developed which pays particular attention to a 'culture of silence'. This in turn leads to an examination of the effect of liberalization on political and civic space in Malawi. The dissertation then, examines civil society activities, during the period of transition of the Malawian state from de jure one-party to de jure multiparty. Here the key research question are: to what extent has an expansion of political space been accompanied by an expansion of civic space, and how, if at all, do civil society organizations ensure that government pays attention to the diversity of voices of the Malawian people? Are traditionally marginalized voices now heard? The objective is to examine to what extent the 'culture of silence' has been dismantled in terms of the opening up of political and civic space in order to enable a 'clamour of voices' to be heard.


Thesis (M.Soc.Sc.)-University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2002.


Theses--Political science., Malawi--History--1964-, Civil society--Malawi., Democracy--Malawi., Malawi--Politics and government--1994-