The History of Modern Malawi
The history of modern Malawi is linked to the life of the Scottish Christian missionary explorer, Dr. David Livingstone (1813 to 1873), who in his quest to reach the source of the River Nile, reached Lake Malawi in 1859, and he named it ‘Lake Nyasa’.
Following his appeal to other missionaries to fight slave trade in Central and East Africa, the first missionary expedition of the Universities Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) arrived in Malawi in 1861. The first permanent mission station was established in 1875 at Cape Maclear on Lake Malawi by the Free Church of Scotland. In 1876, Blantyre Mission was established. In 1884, the first European trading station was established in Karonga, Malawi’s northeast point.
In 1891, the British Government declared a Protectorate over what was then known as Nyasaland Districts. In 1893 this was changed to the British Central Africa Protectorate and in 1907 to Nyasaland Protectorate. However, natives were not pleased with British rule, which they felt subjected Africans to unfair practices. The political struggle against the British in Nyasaland reached its peak in 1915 with the uprising by Rev. John Chilembwe in Chiradzulu district. Rev. Chilembwe is considered to be the father of Malawi’s nationalism.
Although the uprising was not successful, Africans’ dislike of the British rule grew and, in 1944, the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC) was formed to mobilize the people to fight for their rights and ultimately achieve independence from Britain. NAC later became Malawi Congress Party under the leadership of Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda in 1959.
In 1953, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was formed despite African opposition. Under the Federation, the British Government transferred its protectorate responsibility over Nyasaland to white settlers of Southern Rhodesia. However, African resistance to the federation forced the British to shelve the idea. Constitutional talks for Malawi’s independence were later held at Lancaster House in London in July 1960 after which Nyasaland was allowed to have a Legislative Council. Nyasaland became an independent state of Malawi on July 6, 1964. Two years later, the country became a Republic, with Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda as its first President. This was also the year that Malawi became, by act of Parliament, a one party state.
After three decades of one-party rule under President Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, the country held multiparty elections in 1994 under a provisional constitution, which came into full effect the following year.
President Dr. Bakili Muluzi won the elections and led Malawi from 1994 to 2004. He was succeeded by President Bingu wa Mutharika, who led Malawi from 2004 to April 2012, when he died suddenly while still in office. He was succeeded by Her Excellency Dr Joyce Banda from 2012 to 2014, she was then succeeded by President Peter Arthur Mutharika from 2014 to 2019, succeed by President Dr. Lazarus McCathy Chakwera, the current President of Malawi.