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The landlocked Republic of Malawi is located in Southeast Africa, surrounded by Tanzania, Mozambique, and Zambia. Much of the country is situated along Lake Malawi.

Lake Malawi is the country's most valuable resource. Without the lake, there would be no country. Lake Malawi forms the country's eastern border with Tanzania, with the lake being within Malawi, while the southern portion of the lake is shared with Mozambique, the borders being in the center of the lake, which is sometimes known as Lake Nyasa or Calendar Lake. Lake Malawi is the second deepest lake in Africa, and the ninth largest in the world.

Malawi's border with Tanzania is in dispute, with Tanzania claiming that the international border runs through the center of the lake, as does its border with Mozambique. Occasional violent conflicts have ocurred over this issue.

Malawi's border with Mozambique are the result of an agreement made between Britain and Portugal in 1954, in which the center of the lake was to be the boundary, except for Chizumulu Island and Likoma Island, which are now part of Malawi.

West of the lake, the Great Rift Valley goes through the land from north to south. The mountains surrounding the Rift Valley reach as high as 8,000 feet in the north. The Shire River begins at the south end of the lake, joining the Zambezi River in Mozambique. Also south of the lake are the Shire Highlands, that reach as high as 3,000 feet.

Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, the area was inhabited by large groups of Bantu people coming from the north, who found only a small group of people known as the Kafula, who were a hunter-gatherer tribe, and who were easily defeated. Although the Bantus continued south, some of them remained permanently, founding various modern ethnic groups. Migrations were continuous, at least up until the time that the Europeans arrived.

By 1500 AD, the tribes had established the Kingdom of Maravi, which consisted of a larger area than what is now known as Malawi. Shortly after the region became united under one ruler, the Swahili-Arab slave trade was underway, and native tribesmen began making trade alliances with the Portuguese

In 1859, the Scottish missionary and explorer, David Livingstone, reached the region and noted that the area south of the lake was suitable for British settlement. Several Anglican and Presbyterian missionaries established missions there during the 1860s, and a British Consul was appointed to Blantyre in 1883. The Shire Highlands region was made a British Protectorate in 1889, then extended to cover the current boundaries of Malawi a couple of years later, after which it became known as the British Central African Protectorate, then renamed Nyasaland in 1907.

Britain did not maintain strong control over its protectorate. British missionaries were to have more of an impact on the people than its armies or administrators. Prior to World War I, there were just over a hundred planters, two hundred missionaries, and only about a hundred government officials.

By the 1940s, Christianity was well established in Nyasaland, and Malawi remains majority Christian country, although Islam has gradually taken over the region south of Lake Malawi. The Scottish Presbyterians were the first to come, and Presbyterianism remains one of its major Christian groups, although they are now broken into several Presbyterian denominations. Despite their early work in the region, there are only small numbers of Anglicans in Malawi today, the denomination having been largely supplanted by the Roman Catholics. About 20-25% of its population adheres to Islam.

Education in Malawi was originally the role of the missionaries, largely the Presbyterians and the Catholics, who established schools. In their area, the Muslims also set up schools but these schools offered instruction in Islamic practices and recitations of the Quran, which left this part of the country behind in general education.

The move for independence came about after Britain combined Nyasaland with Rhodesia, for its own convenience, a move that angered African nationalists. Dr. Hastings Banda, a Malawi-born doctor, trained in Europe, returned to lead the country to independence, and was successful in 1964, at which time it was renamed Malawi, with Banda as its first president, holding office until 1994.

Malawi is a multi-party democracy, with an executive, legislative, and judicial branch. The president is elected every five years, and the vice president is chosen by the president. Its capital city is Lilongwe, which is the country's largest city, followed by Blantyre, Mzuzu, and Zomba, which was its former capital.

Primary education is compulsory in Malawi, but only about 25% of Malawi children complete the four years of secondary school. There are four public universities in Malawi.


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