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Discovering Malawi – The Land of Hippopotamuses

Discovering Malawi – The Land of Hippopotamuses

I. Introduction

In June 2009 Madonna Lou Ciccone –the world’s most successful singer — put Malawi — which had never received mention in the world press in recent years — on the world map when she traveled to the African Republic , which is slightly larger than the state of Ohio, and adopted a girl. And what do you know about this African nation?

II. Welcome to the Land of Hippopotamuses

Malawi is a magical heavenly country, perfect for those who value a natural lifestyle. This African country, with over 36% of its land still covered by tropical forests, has several national parks. Malawi’s wildlife refuges are home to antelopes, hyrax, elephants, zebras, giraffes, crocodiles, rhinoceros, lions, cheetahs, hippotamuses, and other animals.

The Lake Malawi National Park has one of Africa’s most spectacular landscapes. This lake has an area of 11,150km2 — it is nearly 9 times larger than Rhode Island — with extensive native vegetation and wild animals such as hippos. Since 1970s this area has been a focus for an important tourism industry. Many foreign tourists traveled to the lake Nyasa — also known as Malawi — and other natural sanctuaries each year to see and photograph the hippopotamuses that live there. This lake , one of the world’s ten largest lakes, has been compared to the Galapagos islands (Ecuador, South America) for its wildlife. It has more wildlife than any other lake in the world. The Malawi Lake, for example, has one of the world’s highest densities of fishes ( 500 different types of fishes, nearly all endemic ). This area is also a refuge for such birds as kingfishers, cormorants, and fish eagles. The Lake Malawi National Park was declared Natural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in the year 1984.

The Chongoni Rock-Art Area is another famous tourist attraction.

III. A Brief History of Malawi

Landlocked Malawi, former Nyasaland, has been an independent country since the latter half of the 20th century. In the previous century, it had been controlled by the United Kingdom. In this period, the British greatly influenced both the economical and life of the country. Like many former British colonies, it is a member of the Commonwealth. Malawi has spent many of its post-independence years under dictatorial rule.

From 1964 to 1994, Malawi was ruled by dictator Hastings Kamuzu Banda, who established one of Africa’s worst kleptocracies. At the domestic level he also had pursued a scorched-earth policy against Asians and other minorities. During his iron-fisted rule of Malawi, he had close ties with the white-ruled South Africa, a pariah state in the international community. SA was criticized because of its government’s racist policies. In this period, Malawi’s dictator Kamuzu Banda made the world headlines when he arrived in Pretoria to confer with South African leaders. Kamuzu Banda became the first and only African head of state to traveled to the country of apartheid. This visit did not have parallel in the diplomatic world.

Shortly thereafter, the South African government sent economical aid to Malawi, one of the least-developed countries on the African continent. Certainly Pretoria had played a leading role in the country’s economy.

Without a Doubt, Kamuzu Banda was one of the world’s most hated leaders. But to deflect international opinion, which had condemned his policy toward South Africa, the national government boycotted the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada.

At the same time, Kamuzu Banda aligned his country with the anti-Communist movement in Africa, along with Egypt, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya and Zaire ( present-day the Democratic Republic of the Congo ). In this context, he established full diplomatic relations with Taiwan, a country which is not recognized by the United Nations. On August 4, 1967 President Kamuzu Banda went to Taipei for an official visit. During the Cold War, Malawi was an ally of Taiwan. On the other hand, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II went to Lilongwe , Malawi’s capital, for an official visit in 1989.

The dictatorship came to an end after 30 years and Malawi became a new democratic country. On May 17, 1994 Malawi held its first multiparty presidential election and Bakili Muluzu became head of state. This landlocked country is one of the few democracies in the African region. In 2004 Bingu wa Mutharika won the second free elections. In 2008 he — country’s second post-Cold War president — granted diplomatic recognition to the People’s Republic of China against the opposition of Taipei.

This landlocked country is one of Africa’s most peaceful nations. Unlike most of its neighbors, Malawi has never had civil wars or coup d’etats. Malawi is haven for refugees from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

IV. Human Development

With a population of over 9,000,000 and an area of 45,700 square miles — it is nearly 3 times larger than Switzerland — Malawi is located in southeast Africa. It is one of the most densely populated sections on the African continent. Lilongwe is the capital city.

The Chewa make up Malawi’s largest ethnic group. They dominance over Nyanja, Lomwe, Bantu and other minorities.

Unlike much of Africa the country is not blessed with mineral resources. But this country is endowed with extremely fertile soil. Malawi’s economy is based chiefly on agriculture.

The former dictatorship has devastated the economy and turned Malawi into an impoverished country. This nation is one of the world’s eighteen poorest nations. Since becoming an independent country in 1964, it has had difficulty in solving its human development ( education, employment, public health, nutrition ). In 2008 Malawi ranked 162 of 179 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index, ahead of Ethiopia, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The World Health Organization ( OMS ) says life expectancy is 35 for women and 36 for men — one of the lowest in the Third World. According to UN and other international organizations, more than 10% of the adult population has HIV/AIDS. It had one of Africa’s highest rate of infection in the past decade.

V. Sports

Soccer is the national sport in the country, but Malawi has never qualified for the FIFA World Cup. However, the national team won a bronze medal at the African Games in Nairobi, Kenya — the best result that Malawi has ever had. Unfortunately, it still has not produced world-class athletes or African title-holders. In Beijing 2008, Malawi had been poorly represented by four athletes ( Chauncy Master, Lucia Chandamale, Charlton Nyirenda, Zahra Pinto ). It was Malawi’s eight participation in the Summer Olympics — Munich 1972, Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, Australia 2000, Greece 2004, China 2008.