Martyrs Day in Malawi in 2025

Martyrs Day in Malawi in 2025
Colorful fishing boats at the beach of Cape Maclear, Lake Malawi, Malawi. Image via Deposit Photos
  How long until Martyrs Day?
Martyrs Day
  Dates of Martyrs Day in Malawi
2025 Malawi Mon, Mar 3 National Holiday
2024 Mar 3, Mar 4
MalawiMon, Mar 4National Holiday (in lieu)
MalawiSun, Mar 3National Holiday
2023 Malawi Fri, Mar 3 National Holiday
2022 Malawi Thu, Mar 3 National Holiday
2021 Malawi Wed, Mar 3 National Holiday

Honors the political heroes who gave their lives in the struggle against British colonialism

When is Malawi Martyrs Day?

Martyrs Day is a public holiday in Malawi observed on March 3rd or the following Monday if it falls on a weekend.

This day honors the political heroes who gave their lives in the struggle against British colonialism.

History of Malawi Martyrs Day

In 1891, Britain established the British Central Africa Protectorate which included the whole of present-day Malawi. The protectorate was renamed Nyasaland in 1907.

In the 1950s, the spirit of Malawian nationalism grew as a result of resistance to political moves by the British to form a stable presence in the region, such as the creation of the Central African Federation in 1953, which attempted to bring Nyasaland together with Northern and Southern Rhodesia.

This gave the impetus to Malawians to create their own political parties, with the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC) emerging as the strongest voice for Malawians.

In early 1959, the NAC stepped up their protests with a plan to continually raise the level of demonstrations to force the British into a response.

This led to the British declaring a state of emergency on March 3rd 1959. In an attempt to quell the protesters, they arrested prominent Malawian nationalists and other dissidents during Operation Sunrise.

The arrests led to widespread protests. At Nkhata Bay, about a thousand protestors had gathered near a ship that contained several prisoners. Guarded by only a handful of soldiers, the British lost control of the situation, opening fire on the crowd and killing at least 30 protestors. In total, 51 Malawians were killed, over 1,300 were detained, and many more were wounded during the state of emergency, which lasted until 1960.

Malawi gained its independence in July 1964 and the events of March 1959 are seen as big steps on that journey to nationhood. In his Martyrs day address of 1974, President Kamuza Banda said "March the 3rd was chosen as a day on which to remember and honour those of our people, who sacrificed their lives in order that we may be free, because what happened on that day, March 3rd 1959, resulted in independence. The independence that the country got in 1964 was a direct result of what happened on March the 3rd, 1959."

The day is marked by speeches by politicians and church services where Malawians can offer prayers for the departed freedom fighters. 

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