In northern Malawi, traces of early hominids have been found in lake sediments near Karonga and a paleolithic elephant slaughterhouse is known from Mwanganda. Late Stone Age settlements are covered in caves in the north as well as in the southern highlands. A rich find material derived from agricultural societies from the last two thousand years is documented.
The oldest known population in present-day Malawi was related to the South African san people. During the first millennium of our era, Bantu people from the north, among them karanga, whose main group continued south across the Zambezi River. In the 13th century a new wave of diet-speaking people came. Chewa, a new anya with several groups in today’s Malawi originated from them. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Malawi. The Portuguese in the colony of Mozambique later gave these inland people the name maravi; hence the modern name of the country. Portuguese domination never covered this region, but their trade, especially with ivory, affected economic and political conditions. Trade did not rarely turn into slave hunting and military conflicts.
During the 19th century, the country was seriously drawn into the surge in the slave trade, which caused concern and new migrations throughout central and southern Africa. From the east came the traders yao, from different directions came warlike Nguni people (related to the South African Zulus). Around 1860, David Livingstone explored the area, and his appeals for the fight against slave traders and for Africa’s Christian civilization became, after his death, a source of inspiration for Scottish mission societies, which established Christian communities in northern and southern Malawi. They chose chewa as the language for their Bible translations, which then became the official language of modern Malawi alongside English. During conflicts with the Portuguese, the British influence, formalized in 1891 as a protectorate, grew from 1907 called Nyasaland.
Central African Federation and independent dictatorship
Even before the Second World War, the British wanted to merge their territories in the Zambezi region, and in 1953 the Central African Federation was formed between Nyasaland, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Northern Rhodesia (present Zambia). Opposition among blacks in Nyasaland was strong. The Federation was seen as an attempt to give hegemony to the white racially discriminating settlers in Southern Rhodesia. There was already a tradition of resistance: the priest John Chilembwe (1875-1915) had led a rebellion in 1915, and in 1944 the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC) was formed as one of the continent’s first nationalist organizations.
In 1958, Hastings Kamuzu Banda returned to Malawi after a long stay in the United States and the United Kingdom and took the lead in the antifederation campaign. In 1963, the Central African Federation was dissolved, and in 1964 Malawi became independent. Alone among the free states of South Africa, Malawi had relations with South Africa during the apartheid era. The regime of the band became increasingly authoritarian, and the only allowed party, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), increasingly resembled the arbitrary citizenry. Popular fermentation forced a referendum in June 1993, which gave a majority for multi-party systems.
Multi-party systems are introduced
In May 1994, the first free elections were held. Businessman Bakili Muluzi (born 1943) from the United Democratic Front (UDF) won the presidential election and UDF became the largest party in parliament. Muluzi and the UDF retained power after the 1999 elections, but in 2004 the MCP regained its position as the largest party in parliament. However, in the 2004 presidential election, the UDF candidate Bingu wa Mutharika (1934–2012), who was launched by Muluzi, won his attempt to change the constitution so that he himself could stand for a third term.
In 2005, Mutharika formed a new party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), following conflicts within the UDF, partly caused by the anti-corruption campaign initiated by the newly elected president. Muluzi’s time in power had been characterized by corruption exacerbating the famine caused by floods interrupted by drought periods that hit the country in 2002. Through subsidies on artificial fertilizers and seeds, Mutharika strengthened its support among the rural population, which constitutes the vast majority in Malawi. From being plagued by recurring miscarriage and famine, Malawi is now able to export food for good years. In 2009, the president was re-elected with 66 percent of the vote and the DPP got its own majority in parliament.
In 2010, President Mutharika decided that the country’s flag should be changed from one with half a red, rising sun to one with a full white sun, which brought a lot of criticism. The flag has later regained its former appearance. Over time, Mutharika’s government became increasingly authoritarian, and the lack of human rights was also criticized abroad. In July 2011, 19 people were killed by police in connection with demonstrations against the president and his economic policies.
When Bingu wa Mutharika unexpectedly passed away in April 2012, according to the constitution, Vice President Joyce Banda would take his place. Since Banda was excluded from the DPP in 2010 after she criticized the president, leading party representatives felt that she could not be approved as president. Despite this, Banda swore in as president after a few days and thus became South Africa’s first female head of state.
The 2014 elections were surrounded by major organizational problems; among other things, the electronic voting system stopped working. Banda accused the opposition of irregularities and tried to annul the elections and announce new elections in which she promised not to stand for herself. However, the Supreme Court rejected her request. In the end, Banda acknowledged the election result, which meant that Peter Mutharika, brother of Bingu wa Mutharika, was elected president with 36 percent of the vote. In the parliamentary elections, 52 of 193 seats went to independent candidates, while the DPP became the largest party with 50 seats, followed by the MCP with 48 seats and the Bandas party of People’s Party (PP) with 26 seats.
Peter Mutharika has also been accused of corruption, including after it was revealed that a food company deposited a large sum of money into an account controlled by Mutharika. However, he was acquitted by the country’s anti-corruption agency, which believed the money was intended for the DPP and not for the president personally.
Mutharika was re-elected in 2019 in an election questioned by the opposition. One of the opponents was Vice President Saulos Chilima (born 1973), who left DPP in 2018 and founded a new party, the United Transformation Movement (UTM). The reason, according to Chilima, was that the ruling party was engaged in corruption and nepotism.