Problems of nation building in Malawi

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Problems of Nation Building in Malawi

The identity of pre-colonial Malawi centered on the Maravi Empire, a very loosely organized society covering a large expanse of territory. In the late 1800 the British colonized Malawi that was called then Nyasaland. The general process of Westernization during the colonial era - through Christianization, education, modern commercial practices, urbanization and so forth - facilitated the replacement of parochial affinities by a commitment and loyalty to a more inclusive societal entity. The creation of a feeling of nationhood was therefore less problematic than in other colonized African territories.

From the early 1920's onwards a new political awareness became apparent. The so-called 'Native Associations' - interest groups geared towards articulating African public opinion - continually focused on issues such as the inadequacy of educational facilities and the assault on African land rights. By the 1930's it had become clear that the colonial policy of undermining the traditional authority of chiefs and headmen and of attempting to implement a form of direct rule in traditional administration was a failure.

This problem was temporarily resolved by the introduction of a system of indirect rule.

After the Second World War, the nationalist movement not only questioned the legitimacy of the existing colonial system but also actively challenged it. The goal was the overthrow of the status quo, as manifested in the colonial system, and the establishment of a new social and political order. A campaign of civil disobedience - aimed especially at agricultural measures and land rights - was launched and strikes, disturbances and violence became everyday events. The nationalist movement, in particular, was to play a key role in fostering a sense of national consciousness throughout Nyasaland. The rapidly growing radicalization of the African population, and the general condition of unrest and violence precipitated the crisis...