Traces of human presence have been found in today’s Malawi from more than 50,000 years ago, and Stone Age settlements around Lake Malawi. The prehistoric inhabitants were related to the san people of southern Africa, and probably the ancestors of the twee – and fula – people who existed in the area at that time. The first migration of Bantu-speaking people took place in the 300s. A new Bantu immigration from the north took place between the 13th and 15th centuries. The largest of these groups was Malawi(or maravi), which came from the Great Lakes further north and gave rise to the current state name. It was with the culture that immigration created that the first state formation in Malawi came into being; above all, the Maravi Confederation from ca. 1480, which in the 1500s to the 1700s included parts of today’s Mozambique and Zambia, in addition to Malawi.
Further north, the Ngonde kingdom was formed around 1600; south of this, among others, the Tumbuka and Chewa people established several states. In the 1600s, the first Portuguese came to the area, but this was only a short episode. Throughout the 19th century, Malawi was exposed to extensive Arab-dominated slave trade, with which the Somyao people in the south allied. One of the prerequisites for the emergence of the kingdom of Maravi was large populations of elephants and ivory trade. To see more information other than history, please visit Abbreviationfinder to learn more about climate, population, government, and economy for the country of Malawi. Conflict with the yao people, as well as internal rivalry, were the main reason for the disbanding of the Maravi state from the mid-1700s.
- Countryaah: Check to see the location of Malawi on the world map. Also covers major mountains, rivers and lakes in Malawi.
The great migrations in southern Africa also gained significance for Malawi, among other things by the fact that the ngoni people, related to the Zulu people, in the 19th century advanced southward and established themselves in the north of the country. At the same time, the yao people immigrated from the east. The Ngonians subjugated or destroyed several chewa chiefs, forcing the tumbu to work for themselves. European colonization began in earnest in 1859, the year David Livingstone reached Lake Malawi – and was largely driven by Scottish missionaries, then South Africa missionaries.
In the 1880s, several European-owned coffee plantations were established in the highlands, and European settlers were allowed to purchase land properties. In 1889, Malawi was made British protectorate, Nyasaland, accelerated by fears of Portuguese expansion and the British desire to secure a land corridor between its possessions in southern and eastern Africa. The borders were drawn up in 1890–91, and Germany abandoned an area in northern Malawi in exchange for Helgoland in the North Sea. However, the agreement between Germany and the United Kingdom of July 1, 1890, the so-called Helgoland – Zanzibar Treaty, did not clarify the border line in Lake Malawi – between what would later become Malawi and Tanzania. Over the years, disagreement over the rights of the sea has been a latent issue of war between the two countries. Malawi claims the entire lake, Africa’s third largest, while Tanzania has proposed that the countries divide the lake equally.
The British used weapons power against the Yao to stop the slave trade, with several clashes as a result. The colonial government divided the land between the plantation owners and the British crown with one fifth each and two fifths to the country’s African population. At the plantations, Africans were forced to work for free.
Through an agreement with the ngonies in 1905, all of today’s Malawi came under British control. This system led in 1915 to a rebellion against the colonial government led by John Chilembwe, who was among those killed when the rebellion was overthrown. The uprising has become a milestone in both Malawian and African nationalism, and Malawi marks January 15, the date of Chilembwe’s death, as a public holiday. Due to costly transport, plantation agriculture in Malawi was not as profitable as in other British colonies, and many Africans took wages in Northern and Southern Rhodesia and South Africa, which further weakened agricultural production.
In 1944, nationalist leaders founded the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC), which worked in particular for land reform and the establishment of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (today’s Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe). The NAC had great support, and in the 1950s a group of younger, more radical leaders took over the party, with demands for self-government and universal suffrage. An amendment to the election law resulted in five Africans – all from NAC – was elected to the Legislative Council 1955. Hastings Banda returned home to take over the leadership of the organization in 1958. The opposition against the federation and colonial rule began, and in 1959 it was declared state of emergency after clashes between NAC supporters and the colonial power. NAC leaders were arrested, the party banned, but the same year the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) was formed to continue the work of the banned NAC. Banda was released in 1960 and took part in negotiations in London leading to elections in 1961, which MCP won. Malawi gained self-government in 1963 and independence on July 6, 1964 with Banda as prime minister.
After independence in 1964, new elections were held, and all MCP candidates were elected without an opponent. Banda resorted to a conservative policy, and opposition to his regime grew rapidly. He was elected president in 1966 when Malawi was made republican and one-party state, and proclaimed president for life in 1971. Banda practically acquired unanimous power and occasionally held several ministerial posts.
The opposition was largely in exile and fought for years for democracy, also by establishing a resistance army. The Banda regime persecuted its opponents, and in 1983 the leader of the Socialist League of Malawi (Lesoma), Attati Mpakati, was assassinated in Zimbabwe. Another opposition group in exile was the Malawi Freedom Movement (Mafremo). In the early 1990s, a transition to multi-party government took place, partly as a result of considerable political pressure from several aid providers and from Malawian groups. An alliance of opposition groups was formed, the Alliance for Democracy (AFORD), led by union leader Chakufwa Chihana. Two other opposition groups, the United Democratic Front (UDF) and United Front for Multi-party Democracy (UFMD), was also formed.
In June 1992, a referendum was held on the introduction of multi-party system. A clear majority was in favor, and a council was set up to prepare for free elections. This was held in 1994, with a clear defeat for both President Banda and the MCP, and victory for Bakili Muluzi and the UDF. Muluzi thus became Malawi’s new president. Several parties were incorporated into the new government.
After Banda resigned from the presidential position, in 1995, a formal charge was brought against him for contributing to the killing of four political opponents, but the charge was later waived. An important instrument in the regime’s terror against opposition and the civilian population was the semi-military youth branch of the MCP, Malawi Young Pioneers (MYP), which was disbanded in 1993. The “youth pioneers” were notorious for their way of fighting opposites, and many who came to the brim Banda or his loved ones were taken off days and subjected to torture by these youth cadres. Former MYP members formed in 1996 a terror group in Mozambique, Movement for the Restoration of Democracy in Malawi (MRDM).
In 1995, UDF and AFORD entered into a formalized coalition collaboration, which disbanded the following year. At the 1999 election, President Muluzi (UDF) was re-elected and the UDF retained his majority in parliament. At the 2004 election, the MCP was the biggest, ahead of the UDF, but UDF’s presidential candidate Bingu wa Mutharika was elected new president ahead of Banda’s former close co-worker John Tembo (MCP). Suspected irregularities in the election led to violent clashes, including in the country’s largest city, Blantyre.
Although Mutharika was handpicked by Muluzi to succeed him, a power struggle between the two within the UDF led to President Mutharika breaking out in 2005 and forming a new party: the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The opposition to him internally in the UDF and his support to him externally – above all from aid organizations – was partly due to Mutharika’s efforts to fight the corruption, which has been widespread in Malawian social life since the time of Bandas. After taking over as president, the Mutharika administration made allegations against prominent politicians, including President Muluzi, who in 2009 was charged with over 80 cases of corruption. During repeated hospital stays in England and in South Africa, Muluzi managed to evade prosecution.
Changing political alliances
While Malawi under Hastings Banda was characterized by one-party government and the absence of democracy, the introduction of multi-party systems and democratic governance has provided ever-changing political alliances, including members of the old regime. Muluzi made vigorous attempts to interpret the Constitution to open it to him as a candidate for a third term in 2009. However, after a long period of political and legal withdrawal, the Supreme Court stopped his attempt. Muluzi’s party UDF then chose to join the other major opposition party, the MCP, which he fought in the introduction of democratic rule in 1994. He supported MCP presidential candidate John Tembo, the country’s foremost political veteran and a close associate of former dictator Banda. Main issues at the 2009 elections were food security, economic development and the fight against corruption.
In the period 2006-08, Bingu wa Mutharika was able to show an annual economic growth of seven percent, where the country’s food production went from a deficit and need for food aid in 2005 to profits and exports, not least thanks to its subsidy program for seed and mineral fertilizers. The results in agriculture gave Mutharika several international awards and in many ways was interpreted as the first concrete example of a green revolution in Africa. The efforts in agriculture have contributed to a marked reduction in the number of poor people in Malawi. In 2009, welfare surveys classified 39 percent of the population as extremely poor, compared to 50 percent in 2005.
The May 2009 election was clearly won by Bingu wa Mutharika and the DPP, and the president was sworn in for a new term with a solid majority in parliament behind him. The DPP received a total of 114 out of the 193 seats, against the MCP’s 26 and the UDF’s 17. Thus, the president gained greater political freedom of action than in the previous period. At the same time, then Foreign Minister Joyce Banda elected Malawi’s first female vice president. MCP and John Tembo, who achieved 30.7 percent in the presidential election (against Mutharika’s 66 percent), objected to the outcome and felt that cheating had taken place. The election was seen as a test of political stability in Malawi, in the wake of a protracted political tension between President Mutharika and President Muluzi. Foreign observers determined that the elections, despite some irregularities, were carried out in an acceptable manner.
Political and social tension
Malawi has formally established a democratic system of government with a nationally elected assembly, but the president – who is also the head of government – has extensive power. This includes not only the veto to dissolve the National Assembly and the government, but the lack of a principle of power distribution also means that the laws and regulations are in principle approved by the president. The opposition’s work became increasingly difficult both inside and outside parliament, and several of the DPP’s central members chose to leave the party in protest of what they perceived as increasing desire for power on the part of the president.
Oppositions peaked in 2010 when DPP leadership demanded that government members actively give their consent for the president’s younger brother, Peter Mutharika, to become the party’s candidate at the 2014 election. Vice President Joyce Banda and some other government members felt it was premature decision four years before the election; they were eventually excluded from DPP. For Banda, this was a continuation of her long neglect and harassment of her. On the basis of the Constitution, Banda retained its status as Vice President, but the government has ensured that this has become a title with no real content. In the fall of 2010, Joyce Banda founded a new party, the People’s Party(PP), with the support of several former government members who were also at odds in the DPP. The government long resisted the registration of the new party, but after the intervention of the Supreme Court, it was finally registered. The government announced legal action to have Banda removed from office as vice president. The process was not complete when Bingu wa Mutharika died suddenly in April 2012, and Joyce Banda took oath as president two days after his death.
Parallel to the political tug of war, political and social tensions in Malawi increased. The dissatisfaction of the opinion was particularly directed at the government and President Bingu wa Mutharika, who was increasingly referred to as authoritarian. The events in northern Africa in the spring of 2010 fueled discontent, in a situation where most people had long been told about gasoline and diesel queues, that the banks lacked foreign currency and that the prices of transport and basic services increased by about 30 per cent on an annual basis. The lack of foreign currency meant that fuel, mainly imported via ports in Mozambique, could not be paid – which weakened the already limited business sector.
Unemployment has been rising in recent years, and most of those who work have experienced stagnation in wages, which are often very low. As housing costs increase simultaneously, large population groups have a drastic deterioration in living conditions. Women and girls are particularly at risk. While Malawi has generally come further than many other African countries in terms of following the UN Millennium Development Goals, the country is struggling to achieve its goals in the fields that specifically concern women; education and equality. The situation is aggravated by the fact that women and young girls are regularly exposed to discrimination, physical abuse and sexual violence, often combined with widespread exploitation in an unregulated labor market. Malawi has long had a larger proportion of child marriages than most countries and as a cure for this, the formal age for marrying in April 2014 was raised to 18 years. The law was given retroactive effect and a large number of child marriages were thereby declared illegal.
Malawi has a relatively homogeneous population, but some social groups suffer from overload. Blue. Amnesty International, citing UN figures, has expressed concern over the persecution of the country’s albinos. Superstition has in many cases led to abuse, abduction or murder of this minority group.
The social tension has not diminished since the freedom of assembly, press and freedom of expression in 2010 has been narrowed, and key people in the human rights field have been subjected to violence and persecution. University employees have also been subjected to abuse, with teacher boycotts of teaching, dismissal of staff and university closure as a result. During extensive demonstrations in July 2011, 19 people were killed and many injured; President Mutharika asked protesters to forget any illusions that insurgency in Tunisia and Egypt could be copied in Malawi. In an attempt to curb criticism of weak political leadership, he also dismissed the government. Many new names were drawn into the new government that was in place shortly after, while the president’s brother, Peter Mutharika, was moved from the Ministry of Education and became a new foreign minister.
The new president appointed somewhat later an independent commission tasked to identify the circumstances surrounding the change of power in April 2012. The Commission presented in March 2013 its report in which Peter Mutharika and other key members of the government were accused of attempting a coup and thereby prevent the vice president Banda could take over as president. Shortly after the report was submitted, several of the people involved were arrested and a legal settlement was started against a total of 11 key politicians.
However, those who had expected strong reactions to the suspects for coups were disappointed, as several of those involved gained key positions through the presidential and parliamentary elections held May 20, 2014. DPP and Peter Mutharika won the elections. Joyce Banda’s allegations of electoral fraud received significant support, but the country’s supreme court rejected the requirement for a new count. On May 31, 2014, Peter Mutharika was sworn in as the country’s fifth president after independence in 1964.
Under President Hastings Banda, Malawi led an often controversial foreign policy, which included contact with, among others, South Africa, Israel and Taiwan, as well as the former colonial power of Portugal. After independence, relations with neighboring countries Tanzania and Zambia were strained by territorial demands from Malawi, and full diplomatic relations were first established in 1985 and 1971. Nevertheless, in 1980, Malawi joined the SADCC regional cooperation organization. Malawi did not support the liberation movement in Mozambique or in Zimbabwe. During the subsequent civil war in Mozambique, the Malawi rebel movement allowed the RNM to operate from bases in the country, and reports were reported by Malawian officers fighting with the RNM on Mozambique territory. With the support of RNM, Banda wanted to strengthen relations with South Africa in order to realize the dream of incorporating parts of northern Mozambique into Malawi.
After Mozambique and Zimbabwe threatened to close the borders of Malawi in 1986, 12,000 RNM soldiers were expelled from the country. Then, until 1993, Malawi had a small troop force stationed in Mozambique, to protect the Nacala railway line. Malawi opened the borders to Mozambican refugees, of which there were mostly over one million in Malawi. The return of the refugees mainly took place in 1994–95. In 1999–2000, Malawi sent officers to the United Nations Military Observatory Coro. In 2010, President Mutharika replaced Libya’s then leader Gaddafi as president of the African Union.
Malawi has maintained close relations with the West even under the Banda regime, including the EU and the US. In 2008, Malawi severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favor of China, which immediately initiated a strong commitment to Malawi, including completing several of the development projects that Taiwan had initiated or planned. This included the country’s new parliament building, a five-star hotel in the capital Lilongwe and an important road project in the north of the country. Malawi’s leading bilateral partners are besides the Nordic countries UK, China, Japan, USA, Germany, Ireland, South Africa, Egypt, India and Zimbabwe. In addition, the World Bank is a key aid player in the country, and the International Monetary Fund The IMF plays an important role through economic analyzes conducted by the organization on a regular basis. By the spring of 2011, the IMF declared that Malawi’s macroeconomics did not satisfy the terms of the agreements with the IMF. The country’s budgetary policy was declared unrealistic, and the IMF requested that Malawi devalue its currency, the kwacha, which then-President Mutharika strongly opposed.
Many of the disagreements between the IMF and Malawi were resolved when in April 2012 the country was given a new government under the leadership of Joyce Banda, who immediately began reform work in many economic areas. Just weeks after the change of power, the authorities decided to devalue, and negotiations with the IMF resumed. As a result, in July 2012, the IMF granted a three-year loan totaling $ 156.2 million to Malawi. The loan granted under the special Extended Credit Facility (ECF) mechanism is mainly intended to improve the country’s balance of payments, promote growth and reduce poverty.
The IMF’s assessments have significant implications for the country, and have helped donors withhold more than $ 500 million. Several EU countries have pledged budget support commitments, while Norwegian budget support has instead been earmarked for subsidy policy in Malawian agriculture. Particularly drastic is the reduction in aid over the EU budget. In Brussels, EUR 154 million was allocated in 2010, while comparable figures were reduced to EUR 52.2 million as a 2011 grant and EUR 55.2 million as a commitment. In addition to demands for changes at the macroeconomic level, the EU awaits a better and more sustainable governance than Malawi can show today.
In recent years, Malawi has had a strained relationship with neighboring Mozambique and Tanzania. Compared to the former, the controversy has been in particular in disagreements in the energy field, where both countries would have benefited from cooperation. Further, strong reactions in Malawi have caused the government of Mozambique to refuse to approve transit traffic on the part of the Shire-Zambezi River located in Mozambique. The result is that Malawi has not been able to use their first and only inland port in Nsanje towards the border with Mozambique, a project that was formally inaugurated in October 2010.
Compared to Tanzania, disagreement over the management of Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake. Malawi claims on the entire lake, while the Tanzania authorities believe that the lake should be shared equally between the two countries. The disagreement has long stumbled, but has been tapered since the fall of 2012 when Malawi asked the African Union (AU) to get involved in the border dispute. When the conflict gradually intensified, it was linked to the assumption that seismic and other investigations that have begun will confirm that the sea contains gas and oil. Mozambique’s former president Chissano said in the New Year 2013 willing to mediate in the fight, an initiative that the Malawian authorities rejected shortly after it was believed to be able to document that Malawian party documents had been leaked to Tanzania. Malawi announced that the dispute will be reported to the International Law Commission in Geneva.
In the last couple of years of Mutharika’s reign, the Malawi authorities have expressed strong annoyance that prominent donors, including Norway, are supporting voluntary organizations and other sections of civil society in the country. The relationship was tempered by the support provided to gay and lesbian rights organizations, particularly sensitive issues in Malawi. In spring 2011, the diplomatic relations between Malawi and the UK came to a crisis when the British station commander (High Commissioner) was expelled with few days’ notice. The backdrop was that the Malawi government gained access to internal reports to the Foreign Ministry in London, in which the station chief referred to President Mutharika as authoritarian and not open to critical views.
The British government responded by asking Malawi’s acting ambassador to leave London, while a significant portion of Malawi’s British development aid was frozen. The latter was followed up by the United States, which pledged support for the energy sector, while Germany suspended budget support, citing the deterioration of the human rights situation in Malawi. As soon as President Mutharika’s brother was in office in the Foreign Ministry, in the fall of 2011, he began work to normalize relations with the United Kingdom. The efforts resulted in the London authorities resuming aid to Malawi, which totals around £ 93 million annually, with the exception of budget support, which accounts for a quarter of the aforementioned amount. Relations between the two countries were further normalized when Joyce Banda took over as president after Mutharika’s death in April 2012, and that same fall a new station commander was in place in Malawi. In March 2013 completed Joyce Banda political talks with British authorities in London. The United States also resumed its support for Malawi, which was expressed, among other things, by the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visiting the country in August 2012. During the visit, Malawi was given $ 36 million for agricultural projects, with particular emphasis on efforts to increase milk production.
One of the areas where Norway and other donors have been critical of Malawi legislation is the prosecution of gays and lesbians. A male couple who published their engagement in 2010 was sentenced to the maximum sentence of 14 years in prison. They were pardoned by the country’s president when the UN Secretary-General raised the issue during his visit to Malawi that year. In her speech at the UN General Assembly in the autumn of 2012, President Banda announced that she would consider amending the law with a view to decriminalizing homosexuality.
Malawi’s dependence on external financial support has many implications. For example, Joyce Banda asked Sudan’s president to stay away from the African Union summit, which is scheduled to be held in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe in July 2012. Her fears were that the country’s donors would respond with aid cuts if Sudan’s president Bashir, called for by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, attended the summit. The backdrop to her fears was that aid funds, which make up about 40 percent of Malawi’s official development budget, would be further curtailed as a result of Mutharika’s confrontational line with Western donors. The dispute resulted in the meeting being relocated to AU headquarters inAddis Ababa.
During Joyce Banda’s reign, she prioritized increased regional integration and global free trade, trade over aid, general health rights with special emphasis on mother/ child, construction of health clinics and education of health workers, combating tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/ AIDS, raising awareness about climate change, peace and security (Malawian soldiers participated in UN operations in DR Congo and Ivory Coast in spring 2012), as well as reforms within the UN. The United Nations HDI for 2011 placed Malawi number 171 out of a total of 187 countries. Life expectancy in Malawi for 2011 was set at 54.2 years and gross national income per capita was set at $ 753.
In 1996, Malawi became the main partner country for Norwegian aid. The collaboration was continued and expanded from 2001, and Norway is the only Nordic country represented at the ambassador level in Lilongwe. The development of long-standing Danish support for Malawi has had the opposite profile of the Norwegian; The change of government in Denmark around the turn of the millennium meant that Malawi, as a result of allegations of widespread corruption, was wound up as the main partner country. Until 2010, Norway administered part of Sweden’s bilateral assistance to Malawi. The Norwegian-Malawian development cooperation has been particularly concentrated on the development of health services and the management of natural and environmental resources. Central to this is also better governance and democracy, human rights and more specifically women’s rights and equality. The latter applies, among other things, to combating violence against women and discrimination against minorities, including gays. Norway provides support in the health sector to many countries, but Malawi is the only country where health is one of the main sectors for Norwegian aid. Norwegian bilateral assistance to Malawi in 2009 totaled NOK 399 million, in 2010 NOK 391.1 million and in 2011 NOK 374.7 million. In 2011, the country was the sixth largest African recipient of Norwegian aid – after Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda, Zambia and Sudan.
Norway has also been central to the group of donor countries that have provided budget support to Malawi; a total of NOK 600 million was allocated in the period 2003-12. The budget support group has in recent years consisted of the UK, Germany, Norway, the EU, the African Development Bank and the World Bank. However, Norway chose to freeze budget support for Malawi in 2011, which for 2012 had a planned limit of NOK 60 million. This is in response to a lack of reforms in the country’s economic policies and a negative development in terms of human rights and democratic governance. The change of power in Malawi in April 2012 meant that a Norwegian party expressed its readiness to resume budget support for the country. A similar attitude was taken by the UK authorities, and in anticipation of a new budget support agreement, Malawi was given £ 20 million as “emergency budget support” in the fall of 2012. This was in addition to grants earmarked for sector programs. In March 2013, Joyce Banda conducted political discussions with the Government of London and gradually the relationship between the two countries was normalized.
The Malawian authorities have been actively working for the newly established relationship with China to offset the downturn in some western countries’ assistance and trade relations with the country. Mutharika served as president several times on official visits to Beijing, and in addition to supporting the above major development projects, a significant number of Chinese investors and businessmen have come to Malawi. Contrary to what most Malaysians had imagined, China has not been content with its involvement in cities and central districts: China’s business has increasingly challenged, and in many cases outstripped, Malawian retail and other local business. The Malawian authorities have also revealed Chinese people who have taken lightly on Malawian law, e.g. by not paying VAT. This, together with the impact of social dumping on the employment of Malaysians,
Malawi is among the countries most severely affected by HIV/AIDS, and this, together with high population growth and periodic floods and extensive drought and subsequent food shortages, contribute to significant poverty in parts of the country. In 2008, Norway began to support Malawi’s subsidy program for seed and mineral fertilizers, a program that has yielded positive results but has also been disputed. In the same year, a new four-year cooperation agreement was signed between the two countries, an agreement that was later renewed. A number of Norwegian NGOs and institutions are involved in project cooperation in Malawi.