Sunday, 22 January 2012

Lincoln Memorial



Hello everyone,

I’ve never been to any English speaking country, but I would like to travel to the USA. One of the first places that I would like to visit is the Lincoln Memorial, not only because it is visually spectacular but because of its symbolic importance.

The Lincoln Memorial is the monument honoring Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the USA. It is located at the West end of the National Mall in Washington D.C.

One of the facts that made Lincoln one of the most important presidents in the history of America was the abolition of slavery during the American Civil War between the States of the Union and the Confederate States. Six days after the Civil War ended, Abraham Lincoln was shot in the head by a Confederate spy who had attended a speech in which Lincoln promoted voting rights for blacks.

Two years later the Congress created the Lincoln Monument Association, whose main purpose was to build a memorial honoring one of the most extraordinary presidents of their short history. In 1914, the architect Henry Bacon began the construction of a monument based on a Greek temple with 36 Doric columns representing the 36 states of the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death. Right above, inscribed on the frieze, we can still see the names of the 50 American States. In two of the internal walls of the memorial we can find two of Lincoln’s most famous speeches, while in the center we can appreciate the majestic statue of Lincoln. Above Lincoln’s head
stands the epitaph:

IN THIS TEMPLE
AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE
FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION
THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
IS ENSHRINED FOREVER

Due to the essential legacy of Abraham Lincoln, his memorial has become a symbol, especially for the American Civil Rights Movement. In fact, in one of the steps that lead to the image of the president we can still see the place from which Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous speech “I have a dream”.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Malawi



Malawi 

1. Key Facts 

Full name: The Republic of Malawi (Demonym: Malawian). The name Malawi comes from the Maravi, an old name of the Nyanja people that first inhabited the area.
Motto: Unity and Freedom
Anthem: Mulungu dalitsa Malaŵi (Chichewa)"Oh God Bless Our Land of Malawi" 

Flag: 



Geography 

Area:
118,484 sq. km. (45,747 sq. mi.); land the size of Pennsylvania, with a lake the size of Vermont.
Cities: Capital--Lilongwe. Other cities--Blantyre (the commercial capital), Zomba, Mzuzu.
Terrain: Plateaus, highlands, and valleys. Lake Malawi (formerly referred to as Lake Nyasa) comprises about 20% of total area.
Climate: Predominately subtropical.
Highest Point: Sapitwa Peak, 3,003 m (9,852 ft)
Lowest Point: junction of the Shire River and the border of Mozambique, 37 m (121 ft)

Sunset in Chamama

People



9–10-year-old boys of the Yao tribe in Malawi participating in circumcision and initiation rites

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Malawian(s).
Population (2010 est.): 15,447,500.
Annual population growth rate (2008): 2.8%.
Ethnic groups: Chewa, Nyanja, Tumbuka, Yao, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, Ngonde, Asian, European.
Religions: Protestant 55%, Roman Catholic 20%, Muslim 20%, indigenous beliefs 3%, other 2%.
Languages: English (official), Chichewa (official), regional dialects, i.e., Chitumbuka, Chiyao, Chilomwe.
Education: Years compulsory--none. Enrollment (2006)--primary, 86%. Literacy (2004 est., age 15 and older)--69%.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2006)--72 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy at birth: male: 50.93 years, female: 52.48 years (2011 est.)

Government

Type: Multi-party democracy.
Independence: July 6, 1964.
Constitution: May 18, 1995.
Branches: Executive--president (the president is both chief of state and head of government), first and second vice presidents, cabinet. Legislative--unicameral National Assembly (193 members). Although the Malawian constitution provides for a Senate, in practice the legislative branch's upper house has never been called into session. Judicial--High Court, Supreme Court of Appeal, subordinate Magistrate Courts.
Administrative subdivisions: 28 districts.
Political parties: Democratic Progressive Party (DPP, ruling party), United Democratic Front (UDF), Malawi Congress Party (MCP), Alliance for Democracy (AFORD), Malawi Forum for Development (MAFUNDE), Maravi People’s Party (MPP), New Rainbow Coalition (NARC), New Republican Party (NRP), People's Progressive Movement (PPM), People's Transformation Party (PETRA), Republican Party (RP), Congress for National Unity (CONU), and the People's Party. MCP and UDF are the two main opposition parties in parliament.
Suffrage: Universal at 18 years of age.

Economy

Kwacha, the Malawian currency

GDP (2009 est.): $4.66 billion.
Annual real GDP growth rate (2009): 7.6%.
Per capita GNI (2009 est.): Approx. $280.
Natural resources: Limestone, uranium, coal, bauxite, phosphates, graphite, granite, black granite, vermilite, aquamarine, tourmaline, rubies, sapphires, rare earths.
Agriculture (approx. 36% of GDP): Products--tobacco, sugar, cotton, tea, corn, potatoes, cassava (tapioca), sorghum, coffee, rice, groundnuts. Arable land--32%, of which 86% is cultivated.
Industry (21% of GDP): Types--tea, tobacco, sugar, sawmill products, cement, consumer goods.
Trade (2009 est.): Exports--$912 million: tobacco, tea, sugar, coffee, peanuts, wood products. Partners--U.S., U.K., South Africa, Zimbabwe, Germany, Egypt, Japan. Imports--$1.502 billion: food, petroleum products, semimanufactures, consumer goods, transportation equipment. Partners--South Africa, China, India, France, Zimbabwe, Japan, U.S., U.K., Germany.

2. Geography 

The Republic of Malawi is positioned in southeastern Africa, occupying a thin strip of land between Zambia and Mozambique. In the north it also shares a border with Tanzania.


The Great Rift Valley traverses the country from north to south. In this deep trough lies Lake Malawi, the third-largest lake in Africa. Following is a clip from a National Geographic documentary about the danger posed to Malawians by the amount of crocodiles living in this lake:


The Shire River flows from the south end of that lake and joins the Zambezi River 400 km (249 mi) farther south in Mozambique. In the west the land forms high plateaus, generally between 900 and 1,200 m (2,953 and 3,937 ft) above sea level. In the north, the Nyika Uplands rise as high as 2,600 m (8,530 ft). To the east of the Shire River the land rises to an elevation of 1,600 m (5,249 ft), and eventually to the country's highest point, Sapitwa Peak at 3,003 m (9,852 ft) near the Mozambique border. In the extreme south, the elevation is just slightly above sea level. It is there that Malawi's lowest point sits at the junction of the Shire River and the border of Mozambique, 37 m (121 ft):


Malawi is divided into 28 districts within three regions:


Central Region: 1 – Dedza 2 – Dowa 3 – Kasungu 4 – Lilongwe 5 – Mchinji 6 – Nkhotakota 7 – Ntcheu 8 – Ntchisi 9 – Salima. Northern Region: 10 – Chitipa 11 – Karonga 12 – Likoma 13 – Mzimba 14 – Nkhata Bay 15 – Rumphi. Southern Region: 16 – Balaka 17 – Blantyre 18 – Chikwawa 19 – Chiradzulu 20 – Machinga 21 – Mangochi 22 – Mulanje 23 – Mwanza 24 – Nsanje 25 – Thyolo 26 – Phalombe 27 – Zomba 28 – Neno. 


3. History

"I wish I could bring Stonehenge to Nyasaland, to show that there was a time when Britain had a savage culture."

(Hastings Kamuzu Banda, first president of Malawi, as quoted in The Observer, 10 March 1963.)

3.1 Early History and Colonialism 

The first inhabitants of present-day Malawi were probably related to the San (Bushmen). Between the 1st and 4th cent. A.D., Bantu-speaking peoples migrated to present-day Malawi. A new wave of Bantu-speaking peoples arrived around the 14th cent., and they soon coalesced into the Maravi kingdom (late 15th–late 18th cent.), centred in the Shire River valley. In the 18th cent. the kingdom conquered portions of modern Zimbabwe and Mozambique. However, shortly thereafter it declined as a result of internal rivalries and incursions by the Yao, who sold their Malawi captives as slaves to Arab and Swahili merchants living on the Indian Ocean coast. In the 1840s the region was thrown into further turmoil by the arrival from S Africa of the warlike Ngoni.

In 1859, David Livingstone, the Scots explorer, visited Lake Nyasa and drew European attention to the effects of the slave trade there; in 1873 two Presbyterian missionary societies established bases in the region. Missionary activity, the threat of Portuguese annexation, and the influence of Cecil Rhodes led Great Britain to send a consul to the area in 1883 and to proclaim the Shire Highlands Protectorate in 1889. In 1891 the British Central African Protectorate (known from 1907 until 1964 as Nyasaland), which included most of present-day Malawi, was established. During the 1890s, British forces ended the slave trade in the protectorate. At the same time, Europeans established coffee-growing estates in the Shire region, worked by Africans. In 1915 a small-scale revolt against British rule was easily suppressed, but it was an inspiration to other Africans intent on ending foreign domination.

In 1944 the protectorate's first political movement, the moderate Nyasaland African Congress, was formed, and in 1949 the government admitted the first Africans to the legislative council. In 1953 the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (linking Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia, and Southern Rhodesia) was formed, over the strong opposition of Nyasaland's African population, who feared that the more aggressively white-oriented policies of Southern Rhodesia would eventually be applied to them.


3.2 The Banda Regime and Modern Malawi 


In the mid-1950s the congress, headed by H. B. M. Chipembere and Kanyama Chiume, became more radical. In 1958, Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda became the leader of the movement, which was renamed the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) in 1959. Banda organized protests against British rule that led to the declaration of a state of emergency in 1959–60. The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was ended in 1963, and on July 6, 1964, Nyasaland became independent as Malawi.Banda led the country in the era of independence, first as prime minister and, after Malawi became a republic in 1966, as president; he was made president for life in 1971. He quickly alienated other leaders by governing autocratically, by allowing Europeans to retain considerable influence within the country, and by refusing to oppose white-minority rule in South Africa. Banda crushed a revolt led by Chipembere in 1965 and one led by Yatuta Chisiza in 1967. 

Arguing that the country's economic well-being depended on friendly relations with the white-run government in South Africa, Banda established diplomatic ties between Malawi and South Africa in 1967. In 1970, Prime Minister B. J. Vorster of South Africa visited Malawi, and in 1971 Banda became the first head of an independent black African nation to visit South Africa. This relationship drew heavy public criticism. Nonetheless, Malawi enjoyed considerable economic prosperity in the 1970s, attributable in large part to foreign investment.

Throughout the decade, Malawi became a refuge for antigovernment rebels from neighboring Mozambique, causing tension between the two nations, as did the influx (in the late 1980s) of more than 600,000 civil war refugees, prompting Mozambique to close its border. The border closure forced Malawi to use South African ports at great expense. In the face of intense speculation over Banda's successor, he began to eliminate powerful officials through expulsions and possibly assassinations.

In 1992, Malawi suffered the worst drought of the century. That same year there were violent protests against Banda's rule, and Western nations suspended aid to the country. In a 1993 referendum Malawians voted for an end to one-party rule, and parliament passed legislation establishing a multiparty democracy and abolishing the life presidency. In a free election in 1994, Banda was defeated by Bakili Muluzi, his former political protégé, who called for a policy of national reconciliation. Muluzi formed a coalition cabinet, with members from his own United Democratic Front (UDF) and the rival Alliance for Democracy (AFORD). Disillusioned with the coalition, AFORD pulled out of the government in 1996. When Muluzi was reelected in 1999, AFORD joined the MCP in an unsuccessful court challenge of his election.

In 2002, Muluzi began a campaign to have the constitution changed so he could run for a third term, but the move sparked political and popular opposition and was abandoned the next year. In late 2003, AFORD again formed an alliance with the UDF. Aided by a split in the opposition, the UDF candidate, Bingu wa Mutharika, won the 2004 presidential election. The UDF, however, failed to win even a plurality in parliament, but Mutharika formed a majority coalition with independents and the small National Democratic Alliance.

Mutharika launched an anticorruption campaign that alienated many in the UDF, including former president Muluzi, and in 2005 Mutharika left the UDF and established the Democratic Progressive party. Mutharika subsequently faced abortive attempts by the UDF to impeach him. A crop failure in 2005 resulted in a drastic food shortage in the country and high food prices.

In Feb., 2006, the president dismissed Vice President Cassim Chilumpha, a Muluzi ally, but Chilumpha appealed the dismissal to Malawi's high court, on the grounds that only parliament could remove him. In March, the court suspended the dismissal pending its decision. The next month, however, the vice president was arrested and charged with treason. In July, former president Muluzi was arrested on corruption charges, but the charges were dropped a month later. A high court panel ruled in Dec., 2006, that the president did not have the right to dismiss the vice president. Subsequently, President Mutharika, in his 2007 New Year's message, accused opposition parties and the judiciary of dividing the nation; he also accused the judiciary of bias against the government. Relations between the president and opposition parties were acrimonious throughout 2007 and into 2008; in May, 2008, the government charged several opposition figures with plotting a coup. Malawi suffers from a high AIDS infection rate, with roughly one seventh of the population affected. 

For a chronology of key events in the history of Malawi, ranging from the 1st century AD until July 2011, please visit this site: 


4. Human rights 

As of 2010, international observers noted issues in several human rights areas. Excessive force was seen to be used by police forces, security forces were able to act with impunity, mob violence was occasionally seen, and prison conditions continued to be harsh and sometimes life threatening. However, the government was seen to make some effort to prosecute security forces who used excessive force. Other legal issues included limits on free speech and freedom of the press, lengthy pretrial detentions, and arbitrary arrests and detentions. Societal issues found included violence against women, human trafficking and child labor. Corruption within the government is seen as a major issue, despite the Malawi Anti-Corruption Bureau's (ACB) attempts to reduce it. The ACB appears to be successful at finding and prosecuting low level corruption, but higher level officials appear to be able to act with impunity. Corruption within security forces is also an issue. 

As of 2010, homosexuality was illegal in Malawi, and in one recent case, a couple perceived as homosexual faced extensive jail time when convicted. The convicted pair, sentenced to the maximum of 14 years of hard labour each, were pardoned two weeks later following the intervention of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

One of the most high-profile charities dedicated to improving harsh conditions in the country is “Raising Malawi,” a non-profit organisation founded by Madonna (whose adopted son, David Banda, was born in Malawi) and Michael Berg, in 2006. 



Madonna with her son, David Banda


Following is a short video including narration by Madonna about the AIDS crisis in Malawi: 



Despite the difficult conditions faced by the Malawians, they are a people famed for their positive outlook on life and friendliness towards travellers. Often dubbed “the warm heart of Africa,” in 2010 Forbes magazine described Malawi as the “happiest African country in the world.”

5. Resources 

http://www.forbes.com/2010/07/14/world-happiest-countries-lifestyle-realestate-gallup_slide_8.html
http://www.malawivoice.com/latest-news/malawi-named-no1-happiest-country-in-africa-forbes-com/
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/malawi/travel-tips-and-articles/39876#
http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/world/A0859442.html#ixzz1iDQnoWeD
http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/africa/mw.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malawi
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/6486688/The-worlds-happiest-places.html?image=6
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13864367
http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0107747.html
http://africanhistory.about.com/gi/o.htmzi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=africanhistory&cdn=education&tm=24&f=20&tt=14&bt=1&bts=1&st=11&zu=http%3A//www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/7231.htm
http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?id=631051082&view=PressS
http://www.chikupirafoundation.co.uk/single.htm?ipg=5972
http://ukinmalawi.fco.gov.uk/en/about-us/working-with-malawi/
http://www.indexmundi.com/malawi/
http://www.raisingmalawi.org/