Hastings Kamuzu Banda (1896? – 25 November 1997) was the leader of Malawi, from 1961 to 1994. After receiving much of his education overseas, Banda returned to his home country (then British Nyasaland) to speak against colonialism and help lead the movement towards independence. In 1963, he was formally appointed Nyasaland’s prime minister. Shortly after Nyasaland was granted independence as Malawi in 1964, Banda adopted a new constitution which declared him the first president. He quickly consolidated power and eventually declared Malawi a one party state under the Malawi Congress Party. In 1970, the MCP declared him the party’s President for Life. In 1971, Banda declared himself President for Life of Malawi itself.
His tenure as the leader of Malawi was controversial. He received support from the West during the cold war, but Malawi’s African neighbors scorned at Banda’s policy of full diplomacy with apartheid South Africa. Although he generally supported women’s rights, improved the country’s infrastructure, and maintained a good educational system relative to other African countries, during his tenure Malawi was firmly totalitarian and a de facto police state.
By 1993, facing international pressure and widespread protest, a referendum ended his one party state, and a special assembly stripped him of his title. Banda ran for president in the democratic elections which followed, but was soundly defeated. He died in South Africa in 1997. His legacy as dictator of Malawi remains controversial, some hailing him as a national and African hero, some denouncing him as a political tyrant.
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