Malawi History Timeline

Malawi is an elongated state in southern Africa, bordering Mozambique to the east, south and west, Zambia to the northwest and Tanzania to the north. Malawi has no access to the sea.

According to Extrareference, Malawi was a British protectorate – Nyasaland – from 1891. In 1953, Nyasaland became part of a federation with Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe and Zambia). The country gained full autonomy in 1963. The federation with Rhodesia was dissolved and on July 6, 1964, Malawi became an independent state.

Early humans lived near Lake Malawi 50 to 60 thousand years ago. Human remains at a site dated approx. year 8000 BC shows physical characteristics similar to those of people living in the Horn of Africa today. In another place, dated to 1500 BC, the remains have features reminiscent of the San people.

Malawi has taken its name from the Maravians, a Bantu people who came from the southern Congo basin for approx. 600 years ago. When they reached the area north of Lake Malawi, the Maravis split. One branch, the ancestors of today’s chewas, moved south to the western shore of the lake. The others, the ancestors of the Nyanja, moved to the eastern bank of the southern part of the country.

Although the Portuguese reached the area in the 16th century, the first significant contact was the arrival of David Livingstone along the north coast of Lake Malawi in 1859. After this, Scottish Presbyterian churches established mission stations in Malawi. One of their goals was to complete the slave trade to the Persian Gulf, which continued until the end of the 19th century.

Malawi is one of the most densely populated countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The population of Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital since 1971, exceeds 400,000. All ministries and parliament are located in Lilongwe. Blantyre is Malawi’s most important commercial center and largest city and has grown from approx. 109,000 residents in 1966 to almost 500,000 in 1998. The President of Malawi lives in Lilongwe, while the Supreme Court is located in Blantyre.

The islands of Likoma and Chizumulu belong to Malawi, but lie within Mozambique’s waters and form maritime exclaves.

During the Cold War, Banda was a sure ally of the West, but faced with his government’s massive human rights abuses, several countries chose to suspend aid to Malawi.

Lack of skilled labor, bureaucracy, corruption and poor and poor maintenance of roads, electricity, water and telecommunications infrastructure create further obstacles to economic development in Malawi.


1835 – The expansion of the Zulus had pushed the ngoni-ndwandé people down to the shores of Lake Malawi. It gave rise to the ensuing 60 years of war between the ngonians and the allied peoples chewa and yaó.

1890 – Portugal tries to occupy Malawi, but is repulsed by an ultimatum from the English government. The colonial power wanted to reserve the area in order to realize its project of uniting Egypt with South Africa via an unbroken chain of colonies.

1891 – The British establish (created by Cecil Rhodes) the Protectorate of British Central Africa, which before 1907 was named the Nyasaland Protectorate (Nyasa is the Yao word for “lake”). The British continued to have control in the first half of the 20th century, but this period was marked by a number of failed Malawian attempts to gain independence.

1953 – The pressure for independence increases when Nyasaland is merged with Northern and Southern Rhodesia into the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

1958 – July. Hastings Kamuzu Banda returned to the country after a long absence in the United States, where he received his medical degree at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee in 1937, the United Kingdom where he practiced medicine, and Ghana. He took over the leadership of the NAC which later became the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).

1959 – Banda is sent to prison for his political activities, but was released the following year to attend a constitutional conference in London.

1963 – Dr. Banda became prime minister on February 1, although the British still controlled Malawi’s finances, security and judiciary.

1963 – A new constitution enters into force in May, giving virtually complete autonomy.

1963 – The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland is dissolved on 31 December

1964 – Malawi becomes a fully independent member of the Commonwealth on July 6.

1966 – Malawi becomes a republic with dr. Banda as its first president. The country was also declared a one-party state.

1970 – Dr. Banda was declared president for life by MCP. The paramilitary part of the MCP, the Young Pioneers, helped keep Malawi under authoritarian control until the 1990s.

1978 – In June, the first elections in 17 years are held. All candidates had to belong to the MCP and pass an English exam, which excluded 90% of the population who do not speak this language at all.

1980 – Malawi’s Socialist League (LESOMA) establishes its own guerrilla forces. At the same time, the Movement for Malawi’s Freedom (MAFREMO) led by Orton Chirwa won.

1983 – Both Chirwa and Attati Mpakati, leader of LESOMA, are sentenced to death for rebellion and conspiracy. During a visit to Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, Mpakati was killed shortly afterwards by South African agents. Chirwa and his wife were abducted in Zambia, where they lived in exile, and imprisoned in Blantyre. The gang received support from South Africa and Israel for the creation of a secret police force – called the Special Branch. Furthermore, the vital president personally controlled the country’s economy, owning 33% of its businesses.

1987- 88 – The country receives 600,000 refugees from Mozambique, in whose civil war Malawi supported the counter-revolutionary RENAMO. This support only ceased when Mozambique’s President Chissano visited Banda in 1988.

1988 – Amnesty International condemns the politically motivated imprisonment of prominent academics and writers – among them Jack Mapanje, the country’s most famous poet.

1989 – November. The United States announced that it forgave 40 million. US $ of Malawi’s external debt.

1990 – 91 – this year aggravated natural disasters – earthquakes and floods – the lack of food in the rural population, which with 90% makes up the majority of the country’s population. The privatization of the maize market only benefited a small handful of producers.

1991 – September. The then Vice President of the United States, Dan Quayle, reaffirmed his government’s total support for the Banda regime, while the human rights situation deteriorated.

1992 – April. Opposition leader Chafuka Chihana of the Alliance for Democracy was arrested as he tried to return home. A subsequent intense international campaign prevented his execution.

1992 – At the end of the year, the news of the death of the opposition politician and chairman of the opposition MAFREMO party, Orton Chirwa, runs through the country. He had been in prison since 1983 and had died under torture. To curb popular discontent, Banda announced the holding of a referendum on multi-party rule.

1993 – Increasing internal unrest and pressure from Malawian churches and the international community led to a referendum in which the Malawian people voted for either a multi-party democracy or the continuation of a one-party state.

1993 – On June 14, the people overwhelmingly choose the multi-party system. Bakili Muluzi, the leader of the United Democratic Front (UDF), was elected president in these elections.

1993 – In June, the Commmittee on Public Affairs forces Banda to hold the vote the same month. About two-thirds of the votes cast were in favor of change. The same month, Banda released Vera Chirwa, the wife of the assassinated politician and Africa’s longest-serving political prisoner. Banda refused to resign, but promised to hold presidential elections in 1994.

1994 – Free and fair national elections are held on 17 May. The presidential election was won by opposition candidate Bakili Mukizi. His party, the United Democratic Front, won 84 of the 177 seats.

1994 – September. Banda, whose party had achieved only 55 seats, decided to withdraw from political life.

1994 – Throughout the year, Malawi suffered the consequences of a severe drought leading to food shortages. Under this still difficult social situation, the government decided to continue the reduction of public spending. A step that was praised by the IMF.

1995 – January. Ex-President Banda was arrested, charged with the murder of 3 ex-ministers.

1996 – UDF wins 82 of the 177 seats in the National Assembly and forms a coalition government with the Alliance for Democracy (AFORD). The coalition was dissolved in June, but some of its members remained in government.

1997 – The United States begins training Malawian soldiers. the formation of an African “peacekeeping force”.

1997 – The drought that affected large African regions almost completely wiped out the Shire River, one of the country’s most important waterways. Foreign experts recommended reducing the use of water in agriculture and instead importing foreign food as well as continuously industrializing the economy.

1998 – At the beginning of the year, the drought increased the problem of access to water due to increased soil depletion. It was estimated that the underground water reserves in the region would need 1400 years to regain the previous level.

1999 – January. Former Minister of Public Works Abdul Pillane was formally charged with corruption after it was established that he had received money from a South African construction company.

1999 – On June 15, Malawi holds its second democratic elections. Dr. Bakili Muluzi was re-elected for a new five-year term as president despite an alliance of MCP and AFORD running against the UDF.

1999 – The cholera epidemic, which affected 15,000 people, cost 500 lives in 1998-99.

1999 – In April, President Muluzi opens the country’s first television station.

2000 – In February, the president asked the entire government to resign. A number of ministers, including Economy Minister Cassim Chilumpha, were described by the donor countries in the West as unreliable.

2002 – After Muluzi accused the donor countries of intervening in the country’s domestic policy, Denmark suspended its entire aid program for the country in January. It had a scope of 87 million. US $ for the period 2000-04. The interruption meant that new development and environmental programs could not be launched.

2002 – The country is declared a state of emergency due to the high number of deaths due to lack of food. The government was accused of selling the country’s grain to Kenya and of now forcing the population to eat unripe grain. The famine seemed to be able to extend into the ensuing year, and the distribution of food was hampered by the poor condition of the roads and railways. 70% of the population was threatened by hunger, and the elderly and children were the most vulnerable.2003 – In August, the opposition party the Alliance for Democracy was formed with defected members of parliament.

2004 – At the beginning of the year, Vice President Justin Malewezi resigns and joins the opposition in preparation for the presidential election.

2004 – Maj. At least 4 people were killed during the protests following the announcement of Bingu wa Mutharika’s election victory. Malawi’s Congress Party – the country’s second largest opposition party – filed an official legal complaint over the election result, demanding a review of the entire electoral process. The party’s deputy chairman, Nicholas Dausi, declared that the real winner of the election was John Tembo. In the end, however, Mutharika was declared the victor. International observers criticized the circumstances under which the election was conducted. The government subsequently stated that it would distribute retroviral antidepressants to victims of HIV / AIDS.

2005 – Maj. Education Minister Yusuf Mwawa was arrested, accused of using state money to pay for his wedding. He was further charged with violating his powers as a public official, theft, fraud and forgery. A number of senior officials – including former ministers – were also arrested as part of a campaign against corruption launched by President Mutharika.

2006 – February. The opposition accused Mutharika of using the Anti-Corruption Council (ACB) to persecute its opponents. The president denied the allegations, stating that his administration did not prosecute the opposition, but that all those guilty of corruption were prosecuted – including members of his own government.

2006 – April. After five years of drought and food crisis, the Minister of Agriculture was able to announce that the country had had a good maize harvest. The food situation thus improved somewhat.

2007 – July. The government launched a campaign against the trade in small arms, which according to official studies were the main cause of the widespread violence, and slow down the social development. Iflg. the authorities were the main source of the many small arms refugees from neighboring countries in conflict as well as illegal emigrants.

Malawi History Timeline