Hastings Banda was sworn in as President of the Republic in 1966

Malawi History

History & State

Independence Day: July 6, 1964

President: Lazarus M. Chakwera

Political system: Presidential multiparty system

Electoral system: Absolute majority voting (President)

Democracy Status Index (BTI): Rank 53 (out of 137), 2020

Corruption Index (CPI): Rank 123 (out of 180), 2019

Ibrahim Index of African Governance: Rank 23 (out of 54), 2019


The Southern Africa Information Center (ISSA) provides a good overview of Malawi’s history.

Early history and colonial times

Probably the cradle of mankind is in Malawi! The German professor Friedemann Schrenk (University of Frankfurt) found the world’s oldest human bones in Karonga in northern Malawi. His museum opened there in late 2004. On the morning – and pre-colonial history and the Kingdom Maravi, the Malawi its present name owes, is little known. The rock paintings of Chongoni, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are significant.

Probably the first European to visit the area was the Scottish explorer David Livingstone, who discovered Lake Malawi in 1859. The area was proselytized by missionaries from the Free Church of Scotland from 1875. In 1878 the first trading company, Livingston Central African Mission Company, was founded. In 1891 the area became a British protectorate. In 1907 the colony was renamed Nyasaland (Land am See).

The colonial era was relatively unspectacular. The first and only uprising against the British, the Chilembwe Rising in 1915, deserves mention. To this day the clergyman John Chilembwe is one of the few historical figures of integration in Malawi.

The federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, created by the British in 1953, with which the political supremacy of the white settlers in southern Rhodesia was to be secured in the long term, collapsed at the end of 1963 when Nyasaland under the name Malawi and northern Rhodesia as Zambia gained independence from Great Britain.

According to businesscarriers, Malawi’s struggle for independence, which was largely carried out by peaceful means, was led by Hastings Kamuzu Banda, who returned to Malawi on July 6, 1958 after spending more than four decades abroad.

Development of today’s state

Hastings Kamuzu Banda, a doctor of medicine trained in the USA and Great Britain, led the country through negotiations in 1964 from British colonial rule to independence under international law.

In 1966 he enacted a tailor-made constitution and cemented the rule for its Malawi Congress Party (MCP) by taking the rank of a unity party. Political opposition was ruthlessly persecuted. The secret service had a well-developed and efficient informant system down to the village level. In 1971 he was appointed president for life. A grotesque personality cult around the “Ngwazi” (Chichewa for savior) transfigured the short doctor into a god-like idol. Banda belonged to the category of autocratic leaders who reserved the right to make decisions on even the smallest details. The media were in line; there was only a rudimentary civil society. Up until the early 1990’s, the West only took note of the regime‚Äôs grave human rights violations. Sanctions were waived to keep up with the strict anti-communists during the Cold War. He used Western aid funds primarily to finance his patronage pool. The autocratic regime did not collapse until 1992. It was not until May 1994, after Banda had to introduce a democratic system of government under pressure from donors, that the 90-year-old dictator was elected from office. He died in November 1997.

Bakili Muluzi took over the government in May 1994 as the first democratically elected president and implemented the new democratic constitution. In addition to maintaining the democratic structures – despite a few shortcomings and problems – the entrepreneur was interested in pressing ahead with the economic reforms demanded by the donors, especially the privatization of state-owned companies. However, he failed to contain the corruption. While Banda was head of his patronage pool, under Muluzi there was no longer centralized, but decentralized corruption. Muluzi, who was re-elected in 1999, belongs to the Islamic faith.

Hastings Banda was sworn in as President of the Republic in 1966

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