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Democracy of Chameleons

Harri Englund
Price: $ 29.95

After thirty years of autocratic rule under ¿Life President¿ Kamuzu Banda, Malawians experienced a transition to multiparty democracy in 1994. A new constitution and several democratic institutions promised a new dawn in a country ravaged by poverty and injustice.

This book presents original research on the economic, social, political and cultural consequences of the new era. The book engages with a culture of politics in order to expand the purview of critical analysis from the elite to the populace in its full diversity. A new generation of scholars, most of them from Malawi, cover virtually every issue causing debate in the New Malawi: poverty and hunger, the plight of civil servants, the role of the judiciary, political intolerance and hate speech, popular music as a form of protest, clergy activism, voluntary associations and ethnic revival, responses to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and controversies over women¿s rights. Both chameleon-like leaders and the donors of Malawi¿s foreign aid come under critical scrutiny for supporting superficial democratization.

The book ends with a rare public statement on the New Malawi by Jack Mapanje, Malawi¿s internationally acclaimed writer. Dismayed at the continuation of an ¿oral culture of dictatorship¿, Mapanje urges Malawians to confront their past in order to have a future that is free from fear and intolerance.

Anyone interested in politics and culture in sub-Saharan Africa will find this book an important source of insight and detailed analysis for a comparative understanding of Africa¿s democratization.

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