Monday, December 28, 2009

Malawian political enemy returns home

The Toronto Star has a great story today about a Malawi expat who returned home. Ali Sikelo was forced to leave Malawi becuase he opposed the country's dictator. He earned an education in Moscow, and went on to a comfortable life in Toronto. But Sikelo was haunted by leaving behind a family that was scattered and tortured by the dictator.

From the Toronto Star, comes Sikelo's story.

While the video provides the background, we turn to the printed story to see how Sikelo is doing now. As you can tell from our snippet, it is not a perfect ending.

Sikelo was elected in 1999 as a member of parliament, representing Mangochi North East.

The evidence of his political work is not far from his front door: the paving of the winding stretch of road from his village to the Mozambique border was his initiative.

So were dozens of drilled wells. The Chindamba Primary School in Malindi went from two grades to eight.

But his proudest accomplishment has been a system of home-based care and local education for children who have lost their parents to AIDS. It means they no longer have to leave their neighbours, their friends, their relatives and their villages the way Sikelo did, albeit for different reasons.

The orphans of Chindamba, Sikelo's small village, take up most of his time. The 150 children live with extended family or foster families. The orphans and other schoolchildren get taught in a clearing in the village, which has a classroom under the trees. The thatch roof keeps blowing off in the strong winds off Lake Malawi.

During the Star's visit in mid-November, the 3- to 5-year-old children sought refuge from the 32C heat, gathering in the shade of the towering acacia trees. Each one stood to recite, in English, the ABCs, numbers, months of the year, or sing two verses of "Rain, rain, go away."

"I take care of the orphans because I live in this village," Sikelo says. "I was born here and I thought it was my responsibility to assist the children. It was not easy for me to sit here and watch the kids not be able to get something to eat or prepare themselves for the future. Like me, I was helped by the international community to get to where I have and I wanted the same for the children."

Sikelo's life is not perfect.

He lost elections both in 2004 – his opponent blamed him for food fraud, which Sikelo denies – and in 2009. He suffers from malaria. It and the drugs he takes to treat it have left him gaunt and tired. In 12 years, he has lost 15 pounds from his now slender frame.

No comments: