Current President of the African state of Malawi
Born in 1943, Bakili Muluzi received his childhood education in Malawi before going to Europe to study. He attended college first in England, then in Denmark before returning to Malawi to enter the political arena.
The ruler of Malawi at the time was Hastings Kamuzu Banda. Banda had been Prime Minister in the last days of British rule, during which the country had been known as Nyasaland. When the nation gained its independence in 1964 he was hailed as a national hero, and continued in charge, initially with popular support.
Banda's rule became increasingly totalitarian, however. In 1971 he declared himself President for life. He used foreign aid money to keep him in a luxurious style of living while ordering the detention and execution of his political opponents.
Bakili Muluzi joined the Malawi Congress Party, the only authorised political party in Malawi at the time, and was elected to parliament in 1975. He rose through the ranks, taking responsibility for the offices of Youth and Culture, Education and finally became General Secretary of the Malawi Congress Party, second in power only to President Banda.
Muluzi did not see eye to eye with the President, and lost his high position of office to become head of the department of Transport and Communication. Following this demotion, Muluzi resigned from the party, saying that he feared for his life if he stayed and voiced his disapproval of President Banda's policies.
He entered the business world with some success. He became Deputy Chairman of the national Chamber of Commerce. It was during this time that President Banda's regime was called into question, both within Malawi and overseas.
The stream of international aid, which the President had used for himself, dried up. The Catholic church within Malawi openly criticised the government. There was civil unrest as a population sick and tired of suffering under Banda found a unified voice. At first the President attempted to quell the uprising with large scale arrests and arbitrary detention, but to no avail. Eventually he caved in and held a referendum on the one party system in 1993, in which two thirds of the population voted for a parliamentary system with multiple parties.
Following this historic vote, many of the anti-government activists who had spoken openly against Banda during the campaign were arrested or murdered. This did not stop opposition parties from forming in preperation for the upcoming elections to the new parliament.
With popular support from the heavily populated southern regions of Malawi, Bakili Muluzi, now the leader of the United Democratic Front, became the democratically elected President on the 17th of May, 1994.
Muluzi announced new policies designed to repair the damage done to the economy from three decades of Hastings Kamuzu Banda's abuse of foreign aid. He declared that he would fight to end the poverty of the masses and to rebuild social services including healthcare, education and transport.
The following year, The United Democratic Front joined with the Alliance for Democracy, another party which had opposed President Banda's Malawi Congress Party. He also invited a number of former supporters of Banda to join his cabinet in a move which surprised many. In theory this was supposed to unify the population and provide every region with a voice in the government. In practice, however, it led to squabbling in parliament.
In his period in office, Muluzi has attempted to protect human rights by establishing a government agency to deal with allegations of human rights abuses. He also had former President Banda arrested in connection with the deaths of some of his political opponents.
Bakili Muzuli stands at the head of a country still dragging itself out of the past. His task is to secure the rights of the people and to build a nation which can sustain its security and prosperity in the chaotic political climate of the African continent. Building such a state will not be an easy task, but the Malawi of the future will be built upon foundations of freedom and democracy.