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Malawi Safari

Malawi History and Safari Information

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Eland herd on the Malawi horizon

HISTORY OF MALAWI
Early History and Colonialism
The first inhabitants of present-day Malawi were probably related to the San (Bushmen). Between the 1st and 4th cent. A.D., Bantu-speaking peoples migrated to present-day Malawi. A new wave of Bantu-speaking peoples arrived around the 14th century, and they soon coalesced into the Maravi kingdom (late 15th–late 18th century), centered in the Shire River valley. In the 18th cent. the kingdom conquered portions of modern Zimbabwe and Mozambique. However, shortly thereafter it declined as a result of internal rivalries and incursions by the Yao, who sold their Malawi captives as slaves to Arab and Swahili merchants living on the Indian Ocean coast. In the 1840s the region was thrown into further turmoil by the arrival from South Africa of the warlike Ngoni.

In 1859, David Livingstone, the Scots explorer, visited Lake Nyasa and drew European attention to the effects of the slave trade there; in 1873 two Presbyterian missionary societies established bases in the region. Missionary activity, the threat of Portuguese annexation, and the influence of Cecil Rhodes led Great Britain to send a consul to the area in 1883 and to proclaim the Shire Highlands Protectorate in 1889. In 1891 the British Central African Protectorate (known from 1907 until 1964 as Nyasaland), which included most of present-day Malawi, was established. During the 1890s, British forces ended the slave trade in the protectorate. At the same time, Europeans established coffee-growing estates in the Shire region, worked by Africans. In 1915 a small-scale revolt against British rule was easily suppressed, but it was an inspiration to other Africans intent on ending foreign domination.

In 1944 the protectorate's first political movement, the moderate Nyasaland African Congress, was formed, and in 1949 the government admitted the first Africans to the legislative council. In 1953 the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (linking Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia, and Southern Rhodesia) was formed, over the strong opposition of Nyasaland's African population, who feared that the more aggressively white-oriented policies of Southern Rhodesia (see Zimbabwe) would eventually be applied to them.

The Banda Regime and Modern Malawi
In the mid-1950s the congress, headed by H. B. M. Chipembere and Kanyama Chiume, became more radical. In 1958, Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda became the leader of the movement, which was renamed the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) in 1959. Banda organized protests against British rule that led to the declaration of a state of emergency in 1959–60. The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was ended in 1963, and on July 6, 1964, Nyasaland became independent as Malawi.

Banda led the country in the era of independence, first as prime minister and, after Malawi became a republic in 1966, as president; he was made president for life in 1971. He quickly alienated other leaders by governing autocratically, by allowing Europeans to retain considerable influence within the country, and by refusing to oppose white-minority rule in South Africa. Banda crushed a revolt led by Chipembere in 1965 and one led by Yatuta Chisiza in 1967.

Arguing that the country's economic well-being depended on friendly relations with the white-run government in South Africa, Banda established diplomatic ties between Malawi and South Africa in 1967. In 1970, Prime Minister B. J. Vorster of South Africa visited Malawi, and in 1971 Banda became the first head of an independent black African nation to visit South Africa. This relationship drew heavy public criticism. Nonetheless, Malawi enjoyed considerable economic prosperity in the 1970s, attributable in large part to foreign investment.

Throughout the decade, Malawi became a refuge for antigovernment rebels from neighboring Mozambique, causing tension between the two nations, as did the influx (in the late 1980s) of more than 600,000 civil war refugees, prompting Mozambique to close its border. The border closure forced Malawi to use South African ports at great expense. In the face of intense speculation over Banda's successor, he began to eliminate powerful officials through expulsions and possibly assassinations.

In 1992, Malawi suffered the worst drought of the century. That same year there were violent protests against Banda's rule, and Western nations suspended aid to the country. In a 1993 referendum Malawians voted for an end to one-party rule, and parliament passed legislation establishing a multiparty democracy and abolishing the life presidency. In a free election in 1994, Banda was defeated by Bakili Muluzi, his former political protégé, who called for a policy of national reconciliation. Muluzi formed a coalition cabinet, with members from his own United Democratic Front (UDF) and the rival Alliance for Democracy (AFORD). Disillusioned with the coalition, AFORD pulled out of the government in 1996. When Muluzi was reelected in 1999, AFORD joined the MCP in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent his inauguration.

Current President Bingu wa MUTHARIKA, elected in May 2004 after a failed attempt by the previous president (Muluzi) to amend the constitution to permit another term, struggled to assert his authority against his predecessor, culminating in MUTHARIKA quitting the political party on whose ticket he was elected into office. MUTHARIKA subsequently started his own party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), and has continued with a halting anti-corruption campaign against abuses carried out under the previous regime.

(The above was excerpted from The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia)


GENERAL INFORMATION ON MALAWI
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Geography and Ethnicity
Malawi is long and narrow, and about 20% of its total area is made up of Lake Malawi. Several rivers flow into Lake Malawi from the west, and the Shire River (a tributary of the Zambezi) drains the lake in the south. Both the lake and the Shire lie within the Great Rift Valley. Much of the rest of the country is made up of a plateau that averages 2,500 to 4,500 ft (762–1,372 m) in height, but reaches elevations of c.8,000 ft (2,440 m) in the north and almost 10,000 ft (3,050 m) in the south. Malawi is divided into 24 administrative districts. In addition to the capital and Blantyre, other cities include Mzuzu and Zomba.

Almost all of the country's inhabitants are Bantu-speakers and about 90% are rural. The Tumbuka, Ngoni, and Tonga (in the north) and the Chewa, Yao, Nguru, and Nyanja (in the center and south) are the main subgroups. About 80% of Malawi is Christian (mostly Protestant and Roman Catholic), and roughly 13% is Muslim; the rest follow traditional beliefs. English and Chichewa are official languages; other languages have regional importance.

The population of Malawi is estimated at 13.01 million (July 2006).  Note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected.  It is estimated that 14.2% of the adult population (900,000 Malawians) are living with HIV/AIDS (2003 est) and that 84,000 per year die from the disease.

Climate            For temperature and rainfall details in Lilongwe, click African Safari Weather
Malawi has two main seasons, the dry and the wet. The wet season extends from November to April. Rainfall can reach between 635mm and 3050mm, depending on altitude and position of the area. From May to August, it is cool and dry. July is mid-winter month. In September it is hot and dry with October and November as the hottest months with rains expected almost throughout the country.

Government
Malawi is a multiparty democracy governed under the constitution of 1995. The president, who is both chief of state and head of government, is popularly elected for a five-year term. The legislature consists of a 177-seat national assembly whose members are also elected by popular vote for five-year terms.

Chief of state: President Bingu wa MUTHARIKA (since 24 May 2004); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government.
Head of government: President Bingu wa MUTHARIKA (since 24 May 2004); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government.
Cabinet: 46-member Cabinet named by the president.
Elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; election last held 20 May 2004 (next to be held in May 2009).

The Flag
Malawi flagThree equal horizontal bands of black (top), red, and green with a radiant, rising, red sun centered in the black band.

Economy
Landlocked Malawi ranks among the world's least developed countries. The economy is predominately agricultural, with about 85% of the population living in rural areas. Agriculture accounts for 36% of GDP and 80% of export revenues as of 2005. The performance of the tobacco sector is key to short-term growth as tobacco accounts for over 53% of exports.

The principal crops are corn, cotton, millet, rice, peanuts, cassava, and potatoes. Tea, tobacco, sugarcane, and tung oil are produced on large estates. With the aid of foreign investment, Malawi has instituted a variety of agricultural development programs. Large numbers of poultry, goats, cattle, and pigs are raised.

There are small fishing and forest products industries. Deforestation has become a problem as the growing population uses more wood (the major energy source) and woodland is cleared for farms. Practically no minerals are extracted, but there are unexploited deposits of bauxite, uranium, and coal. Malawi's few manufactures are limited to basic goods, such as processed food and beverages, lumber, textiles, construction materials, and small consumer goods.

Leading imports are foodstuffs, petroleum products, manufactured consumer goods, and transport equipment; the principal exports are tobacco, tea, sugar, coffee, peanuts, and forest products. The chief trade partners are South Africa, Germany, the United States, and Japan. Most of the country's foreign trade is conducted via Salima, a port on Lake Nyasa, which is connected by rail with the seaports of Beira and Nacala in Mozambique. Malawi is a member of the Southern African Development Community.

The economy depends on substantial inflows of economic assistance from the IMF, the World Bank, and individual donor nations. In 2006, Malawi was approved for relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program. The government faces many challenges, including developing a market economy, improving educational facilities, facing up to environmental problems, dealing with the rapidly growing problem of HIV/AIDS, and satisfying foreign donors that fiscal discipline is being tightened. In 2005, President MUTHARIKA championed an anticorruption campaign. Since 2005 President MUTHARIKA'S government has exhibited improved financial discipline under the guidance of Finance Minister Goodall GONDWE.

The currency is the Malawian Kwacha. Recent historical exchange rates are as follows: Kwachas per US dollar - 138.7 (12/31/2008); 137.5 (12/31/2007); 143.69 (12/31/2006); 126.00 (12/31/2005); 105.76 (12/31/2004); 107.60 (12/31/2003); 87.27 (12/31/2002); 68.87 (12/31/2001); 47.49 (12/31/2000); 46.66 (12/31/1999); 45.25 (12/31/1998); 21.75 (12/31/1997).

International Disputes
• Disputes with Tanzania over the boundary in Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi) and the meandering Songwe River remain dormant.

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