n Malawi Law Journal - The search for identity and legitimacy : the evolution of Malawi's Constitution

Volume 6, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1996-7675


This article traces the constitutional history of Malawi from the 1890s to date. It is an account of a deeply checkered constitutional history, starting from the period of colonial conquest and the era of dictatorial rule to the current period of democratisation. Contrary to what many commentators on Malawian constitutional law have increasingly claimed, the current Constitution is a product of a considerable period of constitution making. For constitutionalism to become embedded in Malawi, there is a need to move beyond the process of constitution making, despite any shortcomings that may be found in the Constitution, to embrace constitutionalism. The outcome of the constitution-making process that began in 1992 was a result of 'reflection and choice', rather than of 'force' or 'accident'. Instead of seeking to overhaul the Constitution at every opportunity, the focus must shift to respecting and implementing the framework it established, informed by its underlying values, in the full knowledge that its adoption was intended to turn a new chapter and not to perpetuate the entrenched habits and practices of the past. This article also tracks the role that international law has played in shaping the development of Malawian constitutional law right from the time of colonial expansion to the present day.

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