Malawi Recent History

It is the territory between Mozambique and Lake Niassa from which it took its name. The first to reach the shores of the lake were the Portuguese in the 16th century. Gaspar Bocarro touched its southern end in 1616 but no news came of this undertaking and then on 16 September 1859 the English explorer David Livingstone rediscovered it, who then traveled throughout the territory of the western coast of the lake, founding numerous missionary colonies.

According to Abbreviationfinder, an acronym site which also features history of Malawi, the waters of Niassa were first crossed by a steamboat in 1875. In 1878 the British began a real exploration in the interior of the country with the “African Lakes Company”, which in addition to extending political-economic sovereignty over the region, used all his means to combat slavery.

This was not to the liking of Portugal, which invoked sovereignty over the region to itself, declaring that it was within the borders of Mozambique. On August 20, 1890, an agreement was proposed to define the boundaries of their areas but since the Cortes did not accept the drafting of the project, lively grievances arose in the country.

England not only failed to take protests into account, but in 1891 also extended its area of ​​influence. So in 1893 he organized all the lands of the Scirè valley and the western coast of Lake Niassa and united them all into a single Central African Protectorate, the “Central Africa Protectorate”, with the capital Zomba.

The administration was entrusted to a governor, appointed by the English Crown, assisted by a Legislative Council and an Executive Council, both appointed by the same governor. The leaders of the indigenous tribes maintained their powers, but always under the control of the British.

Malawi Recent History

In 1907 the town was called Nyasaland and in August 1953 it set up, together with the two Rhodesias, the “Rhodesia-Nyasaland Federation”.

Meanwhile the colonization had borne fruit and many public works had also been done, such as the railway which already in 1955 could count on a 510 km route. and rolling roads for a total of 9300 km. Another very important communication route was the main airport of Blantyre.

During the years 1949, 1953 and 1955 many changes had already been made to the Constitution because England wanted to develop a policy preparatory to the autonomy of Nyasaland, as indeed it did for all its African colonies. He also predicted that Nyasaland would be able to achieve self-government by 1959.

Then the “Nyasaland African Congress” was created by the nationalists who wanted to detach the country from the Federation and establish an African country such as, for example, Ghana.

And the nationalists came to life somewhat when in 1958 dr. Hastings Banda, who had lived first in England and then in Ghana.

Rebellion acts were carried out against the governor and these, on March 1, 1959, proclaimed a state of emergency and arrested the nationalist leaders.

In July-August 1960 a conference was held in London for the preparation of a new constitution for Nyasaland and it was established that the general elections would be held in 1961. And in these the “Malawi Congress Party” had the majority and immediately operated on detachment from the Federation with the two Rhodesias.

In 1962 the new Constitution was promulgated; in 1963 self-government began and in 1964 independence took place and the name of Malawi was officially assumed.

Banda remained prime minister and deposed several members of the government accused of a pro-Chinese plot. Among the unauthorized was H. Chipembere, one of the most authoritative citizens, who left Malawi after attempting, with little luck, an armed action in 1965.

In July 1966 Malawi became a Republic and the president was Banda for life. His rather drastic policy in 1971 dissolved the opposing parties, reduced the functions of Parliament, had strict control over all sectors, including education, even within the University of Zomba and gave a significant boost to agricultural development.

Since 1972, a plan to Africanise all public employment posts began; he tended to eliminate all that was extraneous to the community, first of all Jehovah’s Witnesses who were forced to leave the country.

As regards foreign policy, Malawi continued to maintain excellent relations with South Africa, which absorbed thousands upon thousands of Malawian workers and which was one of the main economic partners. He also had good relations with Portugal although he remained ideologically close to the Mozambique Liberation Front. Then he improved relations with all neighboring African countries.

From 1975 to 1977 repressive sanctions were applied against all opponents, ethnic and religious minorities. In 1980, Malawi joined the “Southern African Development Coordination Conference” but dissociated when sanctions and boycotts were planned towards South Africa, with which it was the only African state to maintain relations, while dissenting from apartheid.

Banda continued with his dictatorial regime often employing repressions, so all opposition to his system was carried out in hiding or from foreign countries.

Legislative elections took place in 1992, but no changes were made to the government of the country. The economic situation was always maintained on the basis of tranquility also because, fortunately, the country did not know the serious problems deriving from the drought. The only concern for internal stability was always massive immigration from neighboring Mozambique.

But in that same year, opposition to Banda’s repressive and inhuman methods began to take shape, also by many foreign countries. The Catholic Church also entered this situation and, with an open letter to all the bishops of the world, made it known that any form of dissent was prohibited in Malawi. Those who were guilty of this could be subjected to prison without trial, torture and even physical elimination. No human rights were respected, so the brutality of this regime provoked strong rebellions and in May 1992 real popular riots began. Once again there was severe repression.

However, these events had a positive effect as the exiled oppositions decided to move more concretely and founded two political groups within the country: the Alliance for Democracy and the United Democratic Front. State security forces began to experience these pressures and weakened. Banda was forced to hold a referendum in order to introduce a multiparty political system.

This happened in June 1993 with the approval of the proposal. On the basis of this, various amendments to the Constitution also applied: the President’s life election was abolished, the parties were allowed to form and an amnesty was promulgated for all the thousands of citizens who lived in exile. A provisional constitution was immediately adopted, and in May 1994 elections were held both for the renewal of the National Assembly and for the appointment of the President. Banda was soundly defeated, as was his party which only had 55 seats out of 170.

The leader who obtained the majority was B. Muluzi, leader of the Front, also this winner with 84 seats. The remaining 36 seats went to the Alliance for Democracy. The first party extended to the south and the second to the north but in reality no real ideological difference existed between them. And yet they did not find an agreement for the government coalition which, at the time, was one-color and immediately legislated for the release of all political prisoners and for a national pacification.

Politically not very stable due to the lack of an absolute majority, this government often compromised with the Alliance, to try to heal the profound corruption existing among the government and to democratize the life of the country to the maximum.

Things went better in the economic field, especially in 1995/96, in which there was a copious harvest of tobacco.


The dictates of the International Monetary Fund were followed, foreign investments were promoted, public spending was limited, the market was liberalized. Some improvements were achieved but in general the economy could not be said to be in excellent health, also because it was very subject to climatic variations, rather frequent, such as agriculture.

But the greatest damage, not only to the economy, but above all to sociality, came from the spread of AIDS which heavily infected those sectors which should have been the most productive.

Both the presidential and legislative consultations of June 1999 validated the current structure and therefore Muluzi remained President and the Front, with the conquest of 93 seats, confirmed itself as the first party.