Welcome to Karonga: home of Kilombero and Susa

This week we are in Karonga, land of the Ngusa, capital of North Nyasa, home of the famous Chisiza family (Yatuta, Dunduzu, and Du), Sopera wa Sopera, Chief Kyungu, the ever-determined Member of Parliament, Frank Mwenefumbo, the internationally acclaimed kilombero rice, matoke and susa, the Lusubiro Band, the Malawisaurus, Kayerekera Uranium Mine, and of, course, Songwe Border, where the name Boda-Boda originated. So we hear.

If the decentralisation that was touted during the 1990s to the 2000s were really carried out in good faith and with sincerity, Karonga would have grown into a city by now. If, as Mark Katsonga rightly maintained during the 2014 presidential campaign, just 10 percent of the money made at Kayerekera Uranium were left here, Karonga would have been the richest district in Malawi.

If 10 percent of the money MRA makes on vehicles from Japan remained here, where it is made, Karonga would have been the financial capital of the Republic of North Malawi.  If the rice factory were not deliberately abandoned, Karonga would be making money and providing jobs to its people by packaging and selling Kilombero rice. Kilombero rice is to Karonga what Chombe tea is to Nkhata Bay. Fake products will never replace them.

Karonga is like Mangochi.  It thrived even during the days the Banda government did not want it to succeed because, some allege, it was the home of silently unrepentant rebels. If you ask around here, the rich and the not-so-rich people of this district have invested more in their district than outside it.  So like Mangochi, Karonga succeeds despite its enemies.

Abiti Joyce Befu, MG 66 and MEGA-1; Nganga Maigwaigwa, PSC (RTD), the Most Paramount native Authority Mzee Mandela, Alhajj Mufti Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC (RTD) and I, the only Malawian Mohashoi, do solemnly acknowledge that the road from Chitipa to Karonga is good, by any African Malawian standards.

Why it is named Bingu Highway we don’t know because Bakili Muluzi’s government started it, Bingu’s administration bituminised it and Joyce Banda’s government painted it. If there was real need to name the road after a president, then it should have been called Bakili-Bingu-Joyce (BBJ) Highway to acknowledge their several contributions.  So from today, the Chitipa –Karonga Highway is renamed BBJ Highway. Sounds nice, does it not?

We arrived here last night. At the check-in counter of our Hotel, the Nyazeleza Hotel, we were pleasantly surprised at the receptionist’s kindness.

“Fill in these forms or I can do that for you, Sir,” offered the receptionist, a young-looking lady with an over-polished face.

“Thanks for your kindness,” Jean Philippe said.

“How long are you staying here, Sir?” the over-polished face asked, smiling like the queen of Sheba.

“Forever,” Jean-Philippe challenged.

“How long is forever, Sir?” the lady went on.

“Until we finish spending all the money, real American and European hard cash,” Abiti jumped in.

“I see,” the lady said, her eyes radiating that feminine PhD syndrome, “you are most welcome to the land of peace, success and unity. Karonga is the real and only warm heart of North Malawi.”

When we were over with the registration exercise, we all retired to our air-conditioned rooms.  In the room I fiddled with the TV until I got to my favourite Channel, MBC TV.  I watched the news about the president, the first lady, the vice-president, and the minister of culture before I heard a knock on the door.

“Yes. Come right in,” I called.

“Can we go out to Club Marina Resort for a drink? What are you doing son of man?” Jean-Philippe asked.

“I am watching MBC TV News”, I said.

“Anything special?” Jean-Philippe went on.

“I am still waiting to hear the announcement of the official results of last month’s by-elections!” I said.

“Do you still need a court order to join your rebel friend in that special hospital?” Jean-Philippe mocked.

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