This East African nation is known for stability. But drought and rising prices are fueling insecurity, and it’s an insecurity that has people worried about the future.
By Andrew Osborn
In mid-March, a few men on motorbikes were seen at the village of Mweka, in the East African nation of Malawi. They were armed with guns, knives, and sticks. Three of the men were wielding machetes. Others had axes. They were clearly ready to fight.
The men were searching for somebody, someone they thought was hiding in the village. They saw a man who looked like a traditional leader and said: “We’ll kill you. We’ll kill all of you!”
This wasn’t some random attack. The men were members of a newly resurgent militant group called the M23.
M23 is part of a movement, known as “the new Malawians,” which emerged in the last two years and is led by a former student of mine – now a high ranking militia member – named Joseph Kato. Kato’s group is growing in popularity and power.
The group began in July 2016, when the then-23-year-old Kato started a motorcycle club called M23. This group was made up primarily of youth, many of whom had gone through what is called the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP). YEP is an initiative from the International Crisis Group, which works to build the capacity of young people and to empower them to challenge the status quo. The goal of YEP is to help youth connect with each other and with civil society organizations so that they can get involved in their communities, and get involved in politics.
The groups began to operate independently of each other. But after two years, they reached a point where they were ready to unite. Kato called for the formation of a new armed