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Malawi: Kamuzu Banda Mausoleum

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Kamuzu Banda Mausoleum > Malawi > Africa

[Visited: November 2010]

After traveling through the country, getting to know the great Malawian people, and marveling at some beautiful places in the country, there was no time left to explore Lilongwe, the capital city. But after reading about the man who worked his way up from being a smart boy to president of his country, who studied and worked abroad, who has led Malawi to independence, created Malawi out of Nyasaland, but who had also had whims like forbidding women to wear trousers, ordering that his picture be present in offices but never lower than a clock, and threw his opponents in the Shire river to be eaten by crocodiles, I started to develop an interest in this colourful figure.

Picture of Kamuzu Banda Mausoleum (Malawi): Entrance of the mausoleum with Loyalty pillar

On the way to the airport, I wanted to make a short stop at the mausoleum that has opened in 2006. I was curious to see how a nation deals with the memory of its leader who can only be described as a dictator, and who ruled the country for almost 30 years until he was ousted at age 96, just a few years before he would die. It is all too easy for outsiders to be critical; after all, it is mostly the people of a country involved to be the first judges of their own leaders. I thought it curious that the mausoleum was only built some ten years after his death, as if the people needed time to digest his legacy and place his importance into perspective. As if to still exert influence on current politics, the mausoleum is built close to the spot where the New Parliament building is being constructed, on a road appropriately named Presidential Way.

Picture of Kamuzu Banda Mausoleum (Malawi): Picture of Hastings Banda above his stand-in grave

The mausoleum itself is not modest, I realized as I walked towards it. Situated a little higher than the surrounding area, four granite pillars mark the outline of the mausoleum, with four keywords on each one of them: Unity, Loyalty, Discipline, and Obedience. Over the stairs, a large picture of the president greets the visitors. Where I somehow expected to find an empty corner of the capital city, I found myself among a group of students visiting the mausoleum, and a guide approached me. He first took me to the lower floor, where the real grave of Banda is located - but hardly visible through the fence. We went upstairs, where a substitute grave for the former president is located under the watchful eye of Hastings Kamuzu Banda. While I had always understood that the age at which he died is not known, simply because there was no birth record, my guide and the other Malawians around seemed convinced he died at the respectful age of 101. My guide also informed me that close to the mausoleum, an information centre and library would be constructed. Kamuzu Banda has not be forgotten, and it just seems that he has started a second life in Malawi.

Picture of Kamuzu Banda Mausoleum (Malawi): Students visiting the mausoleum
Picture of Kamuzu Banda Mausoleum (Malawi): Looking at the mausoleum from the southern side
Picture of Kamuzu Banda Mausoleum (Malawi): Plaque at the memorial

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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