Established in 1891, the British protectorate of Nyasaland became the independent nation of Malawi in 1964. After three decades of one-party rule under President Hastings Kamuzu BANDA the country held multiparty elections in 1994, under a provisional constitution which came into full effect the following year. Current President Bingu wa MUTHARIKA, elected in May 2004 after a failed attempt by the previous president 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. Increasing corruption, population growth, increasing pressure on agricultural lands, and the spread of HIV/AIDS pose major problems for the country.
LILONGWE INTL ARPT 13 78 S, 33 76 E, 4032 feet (1229 meters) above sea level.
KARONGA 9 95 S, 33 88 E, 1735 feet (529 meters) above sea level.
MONKEY BAY 14 8 S, 34 91 E, 1555 feet (474 meters) above sea level.
Malawi derives its name from the Maravi,
a Bantu people who came from the southern Congo about 600 years ago. On reaching
the area north of Lake Malawi, the Maravi divided. One branch, the ancestors of
the present-day Chewas, moved south to the west bank of the lake. The other, the
ancestors of the Nyanjas, moved down the east bank to the southern part of the
By AD 1500, the two divisions of the tribe had established a kingdom stretching from north of the present-day city of Nkhotakota to the Zambezi River in the south, and from Lake Malawi in the east, to the Luangwa River in Zambia in the west.
Migrations and tribal conflicts precluded the formation of a cohesive Malawian society until the turn of the 20th century. In more recent years, ethnic and tribal distinctions have diminished. Regional distinctions and rivalries, however, persist. Despite some clear differences, no significant friction currently exists between tribal groups, and the concept of a Malawian nationality has begun to take hold. Predominately a rural people, Malawians are generally conservative and traditionally nonviolent.
The Chewas constitute 90% of the population of the central region; the Nyanja tribe predominates in the south and the Tumbuka in the north. In addition, significant numbers of the Tongas live in the north; Ngonis--an offshoot of the Zulus who came from South Africa in the early 1800s--live in the lower northern and lower central regions; and the Yao, who are mostly Muslim, live along the southeastern border with Mozambique.
Hominid remains and stone implements have
been identified in Malawi dating back more than 1 million years, and early
humans inhabited the vicinity of Lake Malawi 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. Human
remains at a site dated about 8000 BC show physical characteristics similar to
peoples living today in the Horn of Africa. At another site, dated 1500 BC, the
remains possess features resembling Negro and Bushman people.
Although the Portuguese reached the area in the 16th century, the first significant Western contact was the arrival of David Livingstone along the shore of Lake Malawi in 1859. Subsequently, Scottish Presbyterian churches established missions in Malawi. One of their objectives was to end the slave trade to the Persian Gulf that continued to the end of the 19th century. In 1878, a number of traders, mostly from Glasgow, formed the African Lakes Company to supply goods and services to the missionaries. Other missionaries, traders, hunters, and planters soon followed.
In 1883, a consul of the British Government was accredited to the 'Kings and Chiefs of Central Africa,' and in 1891, the British established the Nyasaland Protectorate (Nyasa is the Yao word for 'lake'). Although the British remained in control during the first half of the 1900s, this period was marked by a number of unsuccessful Malawian attempts to obtain independence. A growing European and U.S.-educated African elite became increasingly vocal and politically active--first through associations, and after 1944, through the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC).
During the 1950s, pressure for independence increased when Nyasaland was joined with Northern and Southern Rhodesia in 1953 to form the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. In July 1958, Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda returned to the country after a long absence in the United States (where he had obtained his medical degree at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee in 1937), the United Kingdom (where he practiced medicine), and Ghana. He assumed leadership of the NAC, which later became the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). In 1959, Banda was sent to Gwelo Prison for his political activities but was released in 1960 to participate in a constitutional conference in London.
On April 15, 1961, the MCP won an overwhelming victory in elections for a new Legislative Council. It also gained an important role in the new Executive Council and ruled Nyasaland in all but name a year later. In a second constitutional conference in London in November 1962, the British Government agreed to give Nyasaland self-governing status the following year.
Dr. Banda became Prime Minister on February 1, 1963, although the British still controlled Malawi's financial, security, and judicial systems. A new constitution took effect in May 1963, providing for virtually complete internal self-government. The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was dissolved on December 31, 1963, and Malawi became a fully independent member of the Commonwealth (formerly the British Commonwealth) on July 6, 1964. Two years later, Malawi adopted a new constitution and became a one-party state with Dr. Banda as its first President.
In 1970 Dr. Banda was declared President for life of the MCP, and in 1971 Banda consolidated his power and was named President for life of Malawi itself. The paramilitary wing of the Malawi Congress Party, the Young Pioneers, helped keep Malawi under authoritarian control until the 1990s. Increasing domestic unrest and pressure from Malawian churches and from the international community led to a referendum in which the Malawian people were asked to vote for either a multi-party democracy or the continuation of a one-party state. On June 14, 1993, the people of Malawi voted overwhelmingly in favor of multi-party democracy. Free and fair national elections were held on May 17, 1994.
Bakili Muluzi, leader of the United Democratic Front (UDF), was elected President in those elections. The UDF won 82 of the 177 seats in the National Assembly and formed a coalition government with the Alliance for Democracy (AFORD). That coalition disbanded in June 1996, but some of its members remained in the government. The President was referred to as Dr. Muluzi, having received an honorary degree at Lincoln University in Missouri in 1995. Malawi's newly written constitution (1995) eliminated special powers previously reserved for the Malawi Congress Party. Accelerated economic liberalization and structural reform accompanied the political transition.
On June 15, 1999, Malawi held its second democratic elections. Dr. Bakili Muluzi was re-elected to serve a second 5-year term as President, despite an MCP-AFORD alliance that ran a joint slate against the UDF.
Malawi saw its first transition between democratically elected presidents in May 2004, when the UDF?s presidential candidate Bingu wa Mutharika defeated MCP candidate John Tembo and Gwanda Chakuamba, who was backed by a grouping of opposition parties. The UDF, however, did not win a majority of seats in parliament, as it had done in 1994 and 1999 elections. Through the politicking of party chairperson and former President Bakili Muluzi, the party successfully secured a majority by forming a 'government of national unity' with several opposition parties. President Bingu wa Mutharika left the UDF party on February 5, 2005, citing differences with the UDF, particularly over his anti-corruption campaign. He formed the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) shortly thereafter, attracting a number of UDF and independent members of parliament (MPs) to his new party. The DPP, however, has also failed to acquire enough support for a majority in parliament, and continues to face stiff opposition from both the UDF and the MCP in parliament. Meanwhile, many politicians are already looking ahead to the next general elections in 2009, with Muluzi, Tembo, and Mutharika all expected to campaign for president.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The Government of Malawi has been a
multi-party democracy since 1994. Under the 1995 constitution, the president,
who is both chief of state and head of the government, is chosen through
universal direct suffrage every 5 years. Malawi has a vice president who is
elected with the president. The president has the option of appointing a second
vice president, who must be from a different party. The members of the
presidentially appointed cabinet can be drawn from either within or outside of
the legislature. Malawi's National Assembly has 193 seats, all directly elected
to serve 5-year terms. The constitution also provides for a second house, a
Senate of 80 seats, but to date no action has been taken to create the Senate.
The Senate is intended to provide representation for traditional leaders and the
different geographical districts, as well as various special interest groups,
such as women, youth, and the disabled.
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. Malawi's judicial system, based on the English model, is made up of magisterial lower courts, a high court, a Supreme Court of Appeal, and a constitutional court. Local government is carried out in 28 districts within three regions administered by regional administrators and district commissioners who are appointed by the central government. Local elections, the first in the multi-party era, took place in on November 21, 2000. The UDF party won 70% of the seats in this election.
The third multiparty presidential and parliamentary elections, originally planned for May 18, 2004 were postponed by two days following a High Court appeal by the main opposition Mgwirizano (Unity) coalition. The run-up to the poll was overshadowed by opposition claims of irregularities in the voters' roll. European Union and Commonwealth observers said although voting passed peacefully, they were concerned about 'serious inadequacies' in the poll.
Principal Government Officials
President--Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika
Vice President--Dr. Cassim Chilumpha
Minister of Agriculture and Food Security--Bingu wa Mutharika
Minister of Economic Planning and Development--Ted Kalebe
Minister of Finance--Godall Gondwe
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Joyce Banda
Minister of Health--Marjorie Ngaunje
Minister of Information--Patricia Kaliati
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs--Henry Phoya
Minister of Lands, Housing and Surveys--Ernest Malenga
Minister of Local Government--George Chaponda
Minister of Sports, Youth and Culture--Khumbo Kachali
Minister of State in the President?s Office--David Katsonga
Minister of Trade and Industry--Ken Lipenga
Minister of Transport and Public Works--Henry Mussa
Minister of Tourism--Calista Chimombo
Malawi is a landlocked, densely populated
country. Its economy is heavily dependent on agriculture. Malawi has few
exploitable mineral resources. Its two most important export crops are tobacco
and tea. Traditionally Malawi has been self-sufficient in its staple food,
maize, and during the 1980s exported substantial quantities to its
drought-stricken neighbors. Agriculture represents 34.7% of the GDP, accounts
for over 80% of the labor force, and represents about 80% of all exports. Nearly
90% of the population engages in subsistence farming. Smallholder farmers
produce a variety of crops, including maize (corn), beans, rice, cassava,
tobacco, and groundnuts (peanuts).The agricultural sector contributes about
63.7% of total income for the rural population, 65% of manufacturing sector?s
raw materials, and approximately 87% of total employment. Financial wealth is
generally concentrated in the hands of a small elite. Malawi's manufacturing
industries are situated around the city of Blantyre.
Malawi's economic reliance on the export of agricultural commodities renders it particularly vulnerable to external shocks such as declining terms of trade and drought. High transport costs, which can comprise over 30% of its total import bill, constitute a serious impediment to economic development and trade. Malawi must import all its fuel products. Paucity of skilled labor; difficulty in obtaining expatriate employment permits; bureaucratic red tape; corruption; and inadequate and deteriorating road, electricity, water, and telecommunications infrastructure further hinder economic development in Malawi. However, recent government initiatives targeting improvements in the road infrastructure, together with private sector participation in railroad and telecommunications, have begun to render the investment environment more attractive.
Malawi has undertaken economic structural adjustment programs supported by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and other donors since 1981. Broad reform objectives include stimulation of private sector activity and participation through the elimination of price controls and industrial licensing, liberalization of trade and foreign exchange, rationalization of taxes, privatization of state-owned enterprises, and civil service reform.
In May 2004, the IMF program begun in 2000 was canceled and a Staff-Monitored Program (SMP) was implemented. In the wake of questions about fiscal creditability, the SMP?s goal was to give Malawi?s newly-elected government the chance to establish a track record of fiscal discipline. A new Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) was approved on August 5, 2005 after a successful SMP. In August 2006 Malawi successfully reached the completion point under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, resulting in debt relief from multilateral and Paris Club creditors. Over $2 billion in debt has since been cancelled, enabling the government to increase expenditures for development. A new PRGF has since been undertaken.
Real GDP increased by an estimated 2.1% in 2005, from 4.6% in 2004 and 3.9% in 2003. Inflation has been largely under control since 2003, averaging 10% in that year and 11% in 2006. Discount and commercial lending rates have also declined from 40%-45% in 2003 to 22.5% currently. The government has moved away from controlling the exchange rate, allowing the Kwacha to drift since down since March 2005. As of April 2007 the Kwacha had depreciated to 139 to the U.S. dollar. Nevertheless, imports still heavily outweigh exports, and the country continues to suffer from a severe shortage of foreign exchange.
Malawi has bilateral trade agreements with its two major trading partners, South Africa and Zimbabwe, both of which allow duty-free entry of Malawian products into their countries.
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