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    In The Name Of Allah The Almighty

    Malawi ۔۔۔۔ (6th July: National Day)

    Dr Sajid Khakwani (Islamabad, Pakistan)


    Republic of Malawi ,formerly  Nyasaland landlocked country in southeastern Africa. A country of spectacular highlands and extensive lakes, it occupies a narrow, curving strip of land along the East African Rift Valley. Stretching about 520 miles from north to south, it has a width varying from 5 to 100 miles and is bordered by Tanzania to the north, Mozambique to the east and south, and Zambia to the west. Its total area of 45,747 square miles includes 9,347 square miles of lake surface dominated by the 8,900 square miles of Lake Malawi. In 1975 the capital was moved from Zomba in the south to Lilongwe in a more central location.

    The pale ontological record of human cultural artifacts in Malawi dates back more than 50,000 years, although known fossil remains of early homo sapiens belong to the period between 8000 and 2000 BC. With the arrival of Bantu-speaking peoples between the 13th and 15th centuries AD, the recorded history of the Malawi region began. These peoples migrated into the region from the north. The descendants of these peoples maintained a rich oral history, and, from 1500, written records were kept in Portuguese and English. Among the notable accomplishments of the last group of Bantu immigrants, may be they were Muslims, was the creation of political states or the introduction of centralized systems of government. The pre-colonial period witnessed other important developments. In the 18th and 19th centuries, better and more productive agricultural practices were adopted.

    The independent growth of indigenous governments and improved economic systems was severely disturbed by the development of the slave trade in the late 18th century and by the arrival of foreign intruders in the late 19th century. The slave trade in Malawi increased dramatically between 1790 and 1860 because of the growing demand for slaves on Africa’s east coast. The Swahili speakers and the Yao also played a major role in the slave trade.

    British colonial authority was welcomed by the missionaries and some African societies but was strongly resisted by the Muslims of Yao, Chewa, and others. In 1891 the British established the Nyasaland Districts Protectorate, which was called the British Central Africa Protectorate from 1893 and Nyasaland from 1907. The negative features of colonial rule prompted the rise of a nationalist movement. From its beginnings during the period between the world wars, African nationalism gathered momentum in the early 1950s and Malawi became independent as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations on July 6, 1964. Two years later, Malawi became a republic.

    Malawi is the most densely populated country in southern Africa, but ironically it is also one of the least urbanized, with 9 out of 10 people living in rural locations. A rural village is usually small. Organized around the extended family, it is limited by the amount of water and arable land available in the vicinity. In highland areas, scattered villages are located near perennial mountain streams and pockets of arable land. The larger settlements of the Lake Malawi littoral originated in the 19th century as collection points for slaves and later developed as lakeside ports.

    Most of Malawi’s population engages in cash-crop and subsistence agriculture. The country’s exports consist of the produce of both small landholdings and large tea and tobacco estates. Malawi has successfully attracted foreign capital investment, has made great strides in the exploitation of its natural resources, and is one of the few African countries to regularly produce food surpluses. Urban development began in the colonial era and was further stimulated by the construction of the railway. Malawi’s new capital, which is developing agricultural industries. Nine major ethnic groups are historically associated with modern Malawi. All the African languages spoken belong to the Bantu language family. Chichewa is the national language and English the official language, although English was understood by less than one-fifth of the population at independence. Chichewa is spoken by about two-thirds of the population. Other important languages are Chilomwe, Chiyao, and Chitumbuka.

    The birth rate is one of the highest on the continent, but the death rate is also high, and life expectancy—at 47 years—is significantly below average for a southern African country. Some two-thirds of the population is Christian, of which more than half are members of various Protestant denominations and the remainder Roman Catholic. Muslims constitute almost one-fifth of the population, and traditional beliefs are adhered to by nearly everyone else.

      The major drainage system is that of Lake Malawi, which covers some 11,430 square miles and extends beyond the Malawi border. A second drainage system is that of Lake Chilwa, the rivers of which flow from the Lake Chilwa–Phalombe plain and the adjacent highlands.

      The backbone of the Malawi economy is agriculture, which regularly accounts for one-third of the gross domestic product and 90 percent of export earnings and which employs more than 80 percent of the working population. Since the mid-1960s, however, the sector has become increasingly concentrated on three cash crops—tobacco, tea, and sugar. More than half of Malawi’s total land area is potentially arable, though only about one-fourth of it is cultivated regularly. Forests and woodlands cover nearly half of the country, and almost 4,000 square miles are in state-controlled forest reserves. Open woodland with bark cloth trees is widespread on the infertile plateaus and escarpments. Evergreen forests are found in conjunction on the highlands. Much of the original woodland has been cleared, and, at the same time, forests of softwoods have been planted in the highland areas. High population density and intensive cultivation of the Shire Highlands have also hindered natural succession there, while wells have been sunk and rivers dammed to irrigate the dry grasslands for agriculture.

    The lakes and rivers of Malawi are estimated to provide more than 60 percent of the country’s animal protein intake. Lake Malawi, in particular, is a rich source of fish within easy access for most of the country’s population. Most of the rivers are seasonal, but a few large ones have a considerable irrigation and electricity-generating potential. Game animals abound only in the game reserves, where antelope, buffalo, elephants, leopards, lions, rhinoceroses, and zebras occur; hippopotamuses live in Lake Malawi.

    Most of Malawi’s mineral deposits are neither extensive enough for commercial exploitation nor easily accessible. Some small-scale mining of coal takes place in the north, and quarrying of limestone for cement production is also important. Deposits of asbestos, uranium, and graphite are known to exist as well. The most important agricultural export products are tobacco, tea, sugar, and peanuts (groundnuts). Lake Malawi is the major source of Malawi’s fishing industry, but Lakes Chilwa and Malombe and the Shire River also contribute significantly to the annual catch. The industry supplies mainly a local market, but some fish are exported to neighboring countries.

    About two-thirds of Malawi’s foreign-exchange earnings are derived from exports of tobacco, of which Malawi is the second largest producer in Africa (after Zimbabwe). The main purchaser of its tobacco—as well as of its second major export, tea—is the United Kingdom. Sugar and cotton are the country’s other major exports. Diesel fuel and petroleum, fertilizers, consumer goods, machinery and transport equipment, and medical supplies are the main imports. South Africa, Japan, the United States, Germany, and The Netherlands are Malawi’s other major trading partners. Air Malawi, the national airline, operates services from the main airport at Chileka, 11 miles from Blantyre, to several foreign countries and neighbouring African capitals.

    Malawi was a de facto one-party state from August 1961, when the first general elections were held, until 1966, when the constitution formally recognized the Malawi Congress Party as the sole political organization. The 1966 constitution was amended in 1993 to allow for a multiparty political system, and since then several other political parties have emerged, with the United Democratic Front (UDF) quickly becoming the most prominent. Malawi’s original constitution of 1966 was replaced with a provisional constitution in 1994, which was officially promulgated in 1995. It provides for a president, who is limited to serving no more than two five-year terms, and up to two vice-presidents, all of whom are elected by universal suffrage. The president serves as head of both state and government. The cabinet is appointed by the president. The legislature, the National Assembly, is unicameral; its members are also elected by universal suffrage and serve five-year terms. The 1995 constitution also provided for the creation of an upper legislative chamber, but it was not established by the target completion date in 1999; a proposal to cancel plans for the creation of such a chamber was passed by the National Assembly in 2001.

    The country is divided into 27 administrative districts. The local government system consists of district assemblies. The judiciary consists of magistrate’s courts; the High Court, which has unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters; and the Supreme Court of Appeal, which hears appeals from the High Court.

    Elementary education is not compulsory, and only about one-half of all eligible children attend primary school. Despite this low proportion, Malawi’s primary schools feature one of the highest student-teacher ratios in Africa. Post primary education comprises a four-year secondary-school course that can lead to a university education. The Malawi Correspondence College is available to students unable to attend regular secondary school. There are also institutions for teacher training and for technical and vocational training.

     Islam spread into Malawi from the east coast. It was first introduced at Nkhotakota by the ruling Swahili-speaking slave traders, the Jumbe, in the 1860s. Traders returning from the coast in the 1870s and ’80s brought Islam to the Yao of the Shire Highlands. Islam is the second largest religion in Malawi after Christianity. According to state figures, Muslims constitute 12 percent population, though Muslim organizations put the figure at nearly 40 percent. Recently, Muslim groups have engaged in missionary work in Malawi. Much of this is performed by the African Muslim Agency, based in Angola. The Kuwait-sponsored AMA has translated the Qur’an into Chichewa  and has engaged in other missionary work in the country. All of the major cities in the country have mosques, and there are several Islamic schools. Since 16th November 2001 Radio Islam Malawi has been working for the educational training of Muslims according to the teachings of Islam and to introduce Islam towards non Muslims as well.

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