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Area, sq. mi.:
Adult literacy rate:
79% (male); 65% (female)
Infant mortality rate:
89 per 1,000 births
51 (male); 53 (female)
English, an official language, is used in government and business. Chichewa (also official) and Chitumbuka are the two most widely spoken languages.
About 80% of the people in Malawi are Christian, the rest of the people are made up of some muslims and independent reiligons.
Malawians value large families; a typical household includes extended members, especially the husband's brothers or the wife's sisters, depending on the ethnic group. Most men assist with farming but may also hold jobs as teachers, health workers, fishermen, or general laborers, depending on where they live and their level of education.
Throughout Malawi, women raise the children, care for the home, cook, and farm. They teach children socially acceptable behavior, responsibility, respect for elders, and work skills.
For fun most of the Malawians play soccer, they also play a form of basketball called netball. They can also be seen gathered around to play bao- a game played with pebbles.
The Republic of Malawi is governed by a president (currently Bingu wa Mutharika) who functions as head of government and chief of state. The president is elected to a five-year term and appoints a vice president and a cabinet. They are aloud to vote at age 18.
The government provides free primary education for eight years beginning at age six. Teachers and facilities are in short supply, however. Only a small number of students move beyond a primary education.
Serious health problems such as tuberculosis, malaria, bilharzia, diarrhea, cholera, malnutrition, and respiratory infections are widespread in Malawi. It also has one of the world's highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection: about 12 percent of adults aged 15 to 49. Many families have lost both parents to HIV/AIDS, and households are often headed by older children or the elderly.
1st century AD
- Bantu-speaking tribes invade the region inhabited by Twa and Fulani tribes.
"The black messiah", first president of Malawi
Hastings Banda ruled with dictatorial powers for three decades
2005: New tomb for Malawi's Banda
2000: Mystery of the Banda millions
- Further migrations of Bantu-speaking people to the area. New settlers work with iron and dominate earlier inhabitants who are considered to be "stone-age".
- Bantu tribes unite several smaller political states to form the Maravi Confederacy which at its height includes large parts of present-day Zambia and Mozambique plus the modern state of Malawi.
- Portuguese explorers arrive from the east coast of present-day Mozambique.
- Slave trade increases dramatically.
- Scottish missionary David Livingstone's exploration of the region paves the way for missionaries, European adventurers, traders.
- Livingstonia Central African Mission Company from Scotland begins work to develop a river route into Central Africa to enable trade.
- Britain establishes the Nyasaland and District Protectorate.
- Name is changed to the British Central African Protectorate. White European settlers are offered land for coffee plantations at very low prices. Tax incentives force Africans to work on these plantations for several months a year, often in difficult conditions.
- British Central African Protectorate becomes Nyasaland.
- Reverend John Chilembwe leads a revolt against British rule, killing the white managers of a particularly brutal estate and displaying the head of one outside his church. He is shot dead by police within days.
- Nationalists establish the Nyasaland African Congress.
The Malawi Congress Party ruled unopposed for decades
23 October - Despite strong opposition from the Nyasaland African Congress and white liberal activists, Britain combines Nyasaland with the Federation of Northern and Southern Rhodesia (now Zambia and Zimbabwe respectively).
- Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, "the black messiah", denounces the federation and returns from the US and the UK, where he has been studying, to lead the Nyasaland African Congress.
- Violent clashes between the Congress supporters and the colonial authorities lead to the banning of the organisation. Many leaders, including Banda, are arrested and a state of emergency is declared.
Malawi Congress Party is founded as a successor to the Nyasaland African Congress.
- Banda is released from Gwelo prison and attends talks in London with the British government on constitutional reform.
- Elections held for a new Legislative Assembly. Banda's Malawi Congress Party wins 94% of the vote.
- Territory is granted self-government as Nyasaland and Banda is appointed prime minister.
6 July - Nyasaland declares independence as Malawi.
6 July - Banda becomes president of the Republic of Malawi. The constitution establishes a one-party state. Opposition movements are suppressed and their leaders are detained. Foreign governments and organisations raise concerns about human rights.
- Banda is voted president-for-life.
- Lilongwe replaces Zomba as capital.
Malawian woman carries maize distributed by World Food Programme
Maize aid: Malawians are well used to hardship
- First elections since independence. All potential candidates must belong to the Malawi Congress Party and be approved by Banda. He excludes many of them by submitting them to an English test.
Several ministers and politicians are killed or charged with treason. Banda reshuffles his ministers regularly, preventing the emergence of a political rival.
- Catholic bishops publicly condemn Banda, sparking demonstrations. Many donor countries suspend aid over Malawi's human rights record.
- President Banda becomes seriously ill.
Voters in a referendum reject the one-party state, paving the way for members of parties other than the Malawi Congress Party to hold office.
- Presidential and municipal elections: Bakili Muluzi, leader of the United Democratic Front, is elected president. He immediately frees political prisoners and re-establishes freedom of speech.
Banda announces his retirement from politics.
- Banda dies in hospital in South Africa where he is being treated for pneumonia.
President Muluzi is re-elected for a second and final five-year term.
Former President Bakili Muluzi
Banda's successor Bakili Muluzi spent 10 years in office
2004: Muluzi faces moving on
- World Bank says it will cancel 50% of Malawi's foreign debt.
Drought causes crops to fail across southern Africa. Government is accused of worsening crisis through mismanagement and corruption, including selling off national grain reserves before drought struck.
September - Railway line linking central Malawi and Mozambican port of Nacala reopens after almost 20 years, giving access to Indian Ocean.
May - Bingu wa Mutharika wins presidency.
Government says it will provide free anti-viral drugs to Aids sufferers.
January - Three UDF officials are charged with treason after carrying guns to a meeting with President Mutharika. The president later pardons the trio.
February - President Mutharika resigns from the UDF over what he says is its hostility to his anti-corruption campaign. He forms the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
June - President Mutharika survives an impeachment motion backed by the UDF. The speaker of parliament dies after collapsing during angry exchanges over the motion.
November - Agriculture minister says five million people need food aid as Malawi bears the brunt of failed crops and a regional drought.
Fishermen on Lake Malawi
Lake Malawi is the third largest of Africa's great lakes
April - Vice-President Cassim Chilumpha is arrested and charged with treason.
July - Ex-president Bakili Muluzi is arrested on corruption charges.
October - Controversy as American singer Madonna is given temporary rights to adopt a Malawian baby.
May - Malawi begins exporting 400,000 tonnes of maize to Zimbabwe, after producing a surplus in 2006.
January - Malawi ends diplomatic relations with Taiwan, switching allegiance to China.
May - Several opposition figures and ex-security chiefs are arrested after President Mutharika accuses his predecessor, Bakili Muluzi, of plotting to depose him.
May - President Mutharika wins second term in election.
May - A gay couple is convicted and jailed for breaching anti-homosexuality laws, sparking international condemnation. The two men are given a presidential pardon and released.
August - New national flag introduced amid controversy.
First local elections in a decade postponed again.
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