Martyrs’ Day is a public holiday observed in Malawi every year on March 3. The holiday helps to honor the political heroes who gave their lives in the struggle against British colonialism. The British Central Africa Protectorate was established by Britain and included the whole of present-day Malawi. Malawians decided to create their political parties. The Nyasaland African Congress (NAC) emerged as the strongest voice for Malawians. The holiday is celebrated to honor the country’s heroes and inspires the next generation to go after change and improvements in society.
History of Martyrs' Day in Malawi
Malawi is a country surrounded by land (landlocked) in southeastern Africa and does not have access to the open sea. The U.K. established the British Central Africa Protectorate in this area in 1891, and in 1907, the protectorate changed its name to ‘Nyasaland.’ To bring Nyasaland together with Northern and Southern Rhodesia, The Central African Federation was created in 1953. However, this would backfire and would lead to a Malawian uprising.
Hastings Banda, the Central African Federation leader, started a protest that became a revolt. This development made the British declare a state of emergency on March 3, 1959, and arrested prominent Malawian nationalists and other dissidents during Operation Sunrise to quell the protesters. The events of March 1959 are considered to be significant steps on that journey to nationhood. This is because everything that happened that day helped pave the road for Malawi to gain independence in July 1964.
Malawians observe Martyrs Day, and it invokes sorrowful memories. The day shows respect for the brave men and women who faced bullets and suffered imprisonment and humiliation while fighting for independence and rights in Malawi. Freedom fighters are honored for the values and ideologies they envisaged to make Malawi a better country. During the holiday, there are speeches by politicians and church services where Malawians can offer prayers for the lost freedom fighters.
Martyrs' Day in Malawi timeline
The British Central Africa Protectorate is officially established in 1891.
The British Central Africa Protectorate renames this protectorate Nyasaland.
The Central African Federation, or the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, is officially established.
In July 1964, Malawi officially gains its independence.
Martyrs' Day in Malawi FAQs
What are the colors of the Malawi flag?
It is horizontally striped black-red-green. The colors symbolize the green nature of Malawi, the African people, and the blood of independence martyrs.
What is Malawi known for?
Malawi is commonly referred to as the “warm heart of Africa” because of the welcoming nature of its people.
What does Malawi have?
Malawi is considered to have the richest concentration of rock art in Central Africa.
How to Observe Martyrs' Day in Malawi
Learn about Malawi
You can do some research to learn more about the country. You’ll learn about its people and culture.
You can visit the country and enjoy experiencing the culture firsthand. There are many fun activities that you can enjoy in Malawi.
Share the holiday
You can share the holiday with your friends and family in person or online. This helps raise awareness.
5 Fascinating Facts About Malawi
People spoke Bantu
During the first and fourth centuries, Bantu-speaking tribes occupied the Malawi region.
Blantyre is large
Blantyre is considered Malawi’s second-largest city and was founded in 1876.
Malawi was part of Nyasaland
Malawi was part of the British territory of Nyasaland and District Protectorate.
Nyasaland changed to Malawi
Nyasaland declared independence and changed its name to Malawi in the year 1964.
Lake Malawi is enormous
Lake Malawi takes up more than one-fifth of the country’s total area.
Why Martyrs' Day in Malawi is Important
It honors history
The holiday helps to honor the history of Malawi. It keeps the memories alive by sharing them with the younger generation.
It inspires the youth
The holiday helps to encourage younger people to take chances and pursue change. They can draw inspiration from the martyrs who dared to bring change to their country.
It creates unity
Martyrs’ Day in Malawi gives the people a sense of unity. It does this by bringing them together for a common purpose.
Martyrs' Day in Malawi dates