HastingsBanda, the first president of Malawi, was initially presented to the Malawipeople by British Colonial officials as the best person who could lead them intoindependence. Later as the country’s self-declared “life president,” Banda transformedthis African democracy into a repressive dictatorship that spanned threedecades. The regime eventually succumbed to international pressure forpolitical reform, forcing Banda out of the presidency at the age of 98.
Banda wasborn about 1896 near Mthunthama, Kasungu, a province in the southeast African Britishcolony of Nyasaland. At the age of 20 hemoved to South Africa where he planned to attend Lovedale College. Instead, he spent the next 10 years workingat the Witwatersrand deep mine in Boksburg.
In 1922 Bandajoined the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and a year later metAmerican Bishop William T. Vernon, who would sponsor Banda’s travel to theUnited States to study. Banda arrived in the United States in 1925 and enrolledin AME Church’s Wilberforce Institute in Ohio, where he graduated in threeyears. Banda then earned a medical degree, continuing his studies in 1938 atthe School of Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons inEdinburgh, Scotland. After World War II, Banda established a successfulpractice in London.
Active inthe Pan-African movement, Banda acted as an overseas advisor when the NyasalandAfrican Congress (NAC) formed in 1944, and in 1953 he left London to establisha medical practice in West African Ghana. After five years there he returned to Nyasaland when the NAC convincedhim to lead the fight for decolonization. Riots and other challenges to British rule in early 1959 led to thebanning of the NAC, and Banda and many other Congress members were imprisoned.
After ayear, Banda was released and took over the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), formedto replace the NAC. On July 6, 1964, Nyasaland became independent and wasrenamed Malawi with Banda as its first head of state. Within two months, Bandaoutlawed all other political parties