With a population of approximately 12 million, Malawi is one of the more densely peopled countries of this part of Africa. Most of the population is rural (85 per cent), living largely in fascinating traditional villages. The largest town is the conurbation Blantyre-Limbe (the commercial "capital") in the south followed by the capital city of Lilongwe in the central region. Mzuzu is the only large town in the north. Zomba, once the capital, has, until recently, been the seat of the parliament.
The Great East African Rift Valley, of which Malawi is a part, has been home to man from the earliest days of Homo sapiens. Many of today’s Malawians are descendants of the Bantu people who moved across Africa and into Malawi for hundreds of years up to the fifteenth century.
The nineteenth century history of the country was one of turmoil, inter-tribal skirmishes and the slave trade. The slave routes from Africa’s east coast to the interior crossed Lake Malawi. Thousands never even survived the journey.
The great explorer-missionary, David Livingstone, is intimately connected with Malawi’s history and there are many sites and monuments to be seen which remind today’s visitors of this. As Dr Livingstone was helping to put an end to slavery, the country was becoming increasingly under European influence. The British Central Africa Protectorate (later to become Nyasaland) was established in 1889.
After World War II the pressure for independence grew, led, from 1958, by Dr Hastings Banda. In 1963 Banda became independent Malawi’s first Prime Minister and, later, Life President. His autocratic rule lasted until 1993 when Malawians voted for a change to a multi-party democracy. A year later, Dr Bakili Muluzi, leader of the United Democratic Front, became the country’s new President and he successfully fought a second democratic election in 1999. His term ended in 2004, when Bingu wa Mutharika was elected President.
The people of Malawi are accurately described as the friendliest on the continent. It is they who make this country the Warm Heart of Africa.
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