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Malawi Modern History

In 1964, Malawi became an independent republic. After independence, Prime Minister Hastings Kamuzu Banda gathered all political and economic power to his own person, and banned all opposition. He appointed himself president and the one-party system was written into the constitution. Banda then came to rule Malawi as dictator for almost 30 years.

Malawi was transformed into a police state, where opposites were imprisoned, murdered or forced into exile. The bandas feared secret police also reached beyond the borders of the country and committed murder of exile Malawi. Malawi came to be called "the land where silence prevails", because no one dared to openly criticize Banda.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Malawi. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

It was not until 1992 that the regime met with open criticism when the Catholic Church spoke in a shepherd's letter. The letter, which was read in all Catholic churches, criticized the regime's violation of human rights and the ban on opposition groups. Soon, others agreed to the criticism. A strike in southern Malawi turned into a violent protest against the regime. In May of that year, the donors withdrew all support except humanitarian aid and demanded increased respect for human rights.

In October 1992, Banda was forced to call a referendum on the introduction of multi-party systems. A number of political parties were formed. In the June 1993 referendum, a clear majority voted for multi-party systems.

Contemporary History of MalawiIn May 1994, the first free elections were held. Banda's long reign of terror was broken when he clearly lost the presidential election against Bakili Muluzi, leader of the United Democratic Front (UDF) who also won the parliamentary elections and subsequently formed government.

One of the most important tasks of the new government was to investigate the human rights violations committed during the Bandar regime. Banda himself was placed under house arrest at the age of 97 and died two years later at a hospital in South Africa.

When the second free elections were held in June 1999, the UDF won a scarce victory and also Muluzi was re-elected by a marginal margin. Protests against irregularities in connection with the election were rejected by the court.

During Muluzi's second term, the division within the UDF intensified and several cases of corruption were discovered within the state administration. Muluzi was forced to kick several ministers. But the biggest scandal for the UDF government was that the country's entire corn reserve was sold out just before Malawi was hit by a famine in 2002. Aid donors suspected that a number of politicians and officials had sold the corn and made big profits. Over three million people became dependent on food aid for their survival.

Under the Constitution, a president can only be re-elected once and when Muluzi failed to get the rules changed, he appointed Bingu wa Mutharika to the UDF candidate in the 2004 presidential election. Mutharika, who was an economist and had made a career abroad, won by almost 36 percent of the votes. In the parliamentary elections, however, the UDF fell sharply back and failed to get its own majority. Malawi's Congress Party (MCP) became the largest party, but the UDF allied with a number of smaller parties and could thus continue to govern.

Mutharika initiated a policy of tightening government spending as well as taking action against corruption, which was considered to be a major cause of the UDF's election defeat. But his fight against corruption was not liked by everyone in the party top, including President Muluzi. The power struggle led Mutharika in early 2005 to leave the UDF and form a new party, the Democratic Progress Party (DPP). A number of leading UDF members followed.

The battle between Mutharika and Muluzi escalated. Muluzi, suspected of embezzling large sums of aid, was indicted for corruption. For his part, Mutharika was accused by opposition politicians of using state funds to form the DPP.

The contradictions periodically crippled parliamentary work during the 2004–2009 term of office. The opposition demanded that the members who switched to the DPP after the 2004 elections should be excluded from Parliament. The matter was decided by a court that gave the opposition the right, but Mutharika managed in various ways to escape the requirement of exclusion.

In the years before the 2009 elections, economic growth was high and poverty declined, which favored Mutharika, who was re-elected president in May 2009 with two-thirds of the vote. In the parliamentary elections, which were held at the same time, President Mutharika's party gained DPP its own majority.

In line with the election success, Mutharika displayed increasingly authoritarian features. The President took his brother Peter Mutharika into the government, and it was obvious that he wanted to see his brother as the DPP's candidate in the next presidential election when he himself could not stand.

But soon the problems for Mutharika accumulated. The global financial crisis that erupted in 2008 led to an acute shortage of foreign currency. Oil imports could not be paid and severe fuel shortages occurred. The situation caused protests and the government was subject to growing criticism. Mutharika was also attacked by its popular Vice President Joyce Banda, who was therefore excluded from the party. Banda then formed its own party, the People's Party (PP).

Concerns deepened in 2011. When it became known that a British diplomat in Malawi had written a critical report on Mutharika, the president terminated diplomatic relations with Britain. The British responded with the same coin and withdrew their assistance to Malawi. Other donors followed suit and suddenly a huge hole in Malawi's budget was largely funded with aid money. The shortage of hard currency became acute, and fuel prices in particular shot up.

During the spring and summer, the protests culminated in increasingly difficult living conditions and against the government. Demonstrations were banned and at least 19 people were shot dead by police.

In April 2012, Bingu wa Mutharika passed away quickly. For several days, the death was kept secret while a circle of ministers in violation of the Constitution planned to install Peter Mutharika as successor. However, Banda demanded that the constitution be followed and supported by the United Kingdom and the United States. Finally, the military stood on Banda's side and she could take up the presidential post.

2004

May

Bingu wa Mutharika wins presidential election

In the presidential election, the former minister and economist at the World Bank Bingu wa Mutharika, who is a candidate for the UDF, wins by almost 36 percent of the vote. John Tembo from MCP comes in second place with just over 27 percent of the vote.

The parliamentary elections, held the same day, will be a hardship for the UDF. The party is almost halved and allowed to settle for 49 of the 193 seats. The largest party will be the MCP with 57 seats. 40 independent members are elected to Parliament, and a multi-party coalition gets 25 seats. Despite the electoral defeat, the UDF manages to create a majority in Parliament with the support of the Republican Party and a few other small parties.

International election observers see major shortcomings in the election and criticize, among other things, the way in which voting lengths have been established. In anticipation of the election result, which is delayed, the opposition is holding demonstrations that in some places are turning into crowds with several casualties.

 
 

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