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Colonial period

Malawi takes its name from the pre-colonial kingdom of Maravi, which once extended far beyond the borders of present-day Malawi. Malawi's present-day boundaries have been largely defined by the activities of British and Scottish missionaries who worked mainly along the Lake Malawi coast. In the late 19th century, the country, then called Nyasaland, became a British protectorate. Soon, anti-colonial feelings arose among the population, but it was not until the 1950s that they began to threaten the British.


In the period 1964 (declaration of independence) to 1994, political life in Malawi was strongly dominated by the person of Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda. Originally a doctor, he lived in exile for some time at the end of the 1950s. On his return from exile, he placed himself at the head of the Nationalist Movement. After a short period of imprisonment, Banda became a member of the government, was appointed prime minister in 1962 and two years later, after the proclamation of the Republic within the Commonwealth, became president. Over the years, the regime became more and more authoritarian and dictatorial, tolerating no opposition. This was facilitated by the fact that Dr Banda took almost all decisions on his own and in 1970 appointed himself president for life.

At the end of the 1980s, resistance against the Banda regime grew among many Malawians because of the great economic inequality, the declining standard of living, the political repression and the changing political situation in the region (refugee flow to Malawi as a result of the civil war in Mozambique and election victory of the opposition party in Zambia).

With the support of the churches and donors, the opposition to the President grew. The Catholic bishops publicly condemned the human rights violations for the first time in 1992, which led to several strikes, student protests and riots, while Western donors suspended their non-humanitarian aid. At the end of that year, a referendum was held on the party system, with the majority voting for a multi-party system.

The 'starting point' for present-day Malawi can be taken as 1994, the year in which, after orderly elections. Banda was forced to resign. In just ten years, the country has managed to establish a reasonably functioning political system. In both 1994 and 1999, the United Democratic Front (UDF) won the national elections led by Bakili Muluzi. He was also elected and re-elected as head of state in the presidential elections held at the same time. Although the constitution excludes a third term, Muluzi tried to bring this about by amending the constitution. Due to resistance from society, once again led by the churches, he had to abandon his plans and appointed Bingu wa Mutharika, a rather colourless economist who had worked for the World Bank, among others, as pretender to the throne.

21th century

In May 2004, Mutharika was elected president. Since then, he has been pursuing a policy of regaining donor confidence through economic reform and the fight against corruption. He also pursues poverty reduction and economic growth. However, a food crisis and political conflict with former president Muluzi threatened these ambitions.

In July 2006, Muluzi was arrested on suspicion of corruption. In January 2008, Malawi broke off relations with Taiwan to curry favour with China. In May 2009, Mutharika won the presidential election from John Tembo, who was supported by former President Muluzi. In May 2010, a commotion arose over a conviction of homosexuals. The president granted a pardon.

Since April 2012, Joyce Banda has been Malawi's fourth president. Homosexuality remains a thorny issue in Malawi; in October 2012, the Minister of Justice refused to sign an anti-gay law. In October 2013, President Banda dismisses her government for corruption. In May 2014, Peter Mutharika won the presidential election. In June 2016, Amnesty International warns against prosecuting Albinos, at least 65 cases of abuse and murder have been reported in recent years. In June 2017, Unicef opens an air corridor of Drones to enable medicine delivery.

In June 2020, Christian preacher and theologian Lazarus Chakwera defeats Peter Mutharika in a rerun of the 2019 presidential election, which the courts ruled had been widely irregular.


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated June 2024
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