HISTORY OF MALAWI
History and Colonialism
The first inhabitants of present-day
Malawi were probably
to the San (Bushmen).
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.
Kanyama Chiume, became
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
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.
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
was excerpted from The
Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia)
INFORMATION ON MALAWI
Geography and Ethnicity
is long and narrow, and about 20% of its total
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.
of Malawi is estimated at 13.01 million (July
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.
temperature and rainfall details in Lilongwe,
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.
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
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).
equal horizontal bands of black (top), red,
and green with a radiant, rising, red sun centered
in the black band.
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.
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
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
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).
with Tanzania over the boundary in Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi) and
the meandering Songwe River remain dormant.
to Map of Malawi