Ansari pays homage to Malawi's first president

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Lilongwe (Malawi), Jan. 8 (ANI): Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari paid homage to Malawi's first president Hastings Kamuzu Banda at his mausoleum located in the heart of the capital on Friday.

The visiting dignitary was escorted to the grave of the former president located below the mausoleum, where, he placed a wreath and observed a couple of minutes of silence in Banda's honour.

The mausoleum was inaugurated on May 15, 2006 by President Bingu was Mutharika. The 600,000 dollar two-storey complex was built to highlight President Hastings Banda's contribution in securing independence for Malawi (formerly known as Nyasaland) from Britain in 1964.

Banda, popularly known as "Ngwazi" or conqueror, died in South Africa in 1997 at the age of 99. He was regarded as one of Africa's most controversial leaders whose human rights record came under severe criticism.He was known for jailing his opponents and silencing critics.

He also barred women from wearing trousers and short skirts and jailed men for having long hair. According to some estimates, up to 100 000 Malawians were forced into exile during his tenure.

The marble and granite building in the Heroes' Acre houses a library and a research centre.

A United States-trained doctor who led the country to freedom from British colonial rule 42 years ago, Banda co-founded and led the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). Emerging as a clear winner in Malawi's first elections in 1961, Banda wielded power ruthlessly until 1994 when, he was ousted in the country's first multi-party elections.

He was Malawi's first president from July 1964 to 1966. He became President in 1966 and declared himself president for life in 1971.

When he died he was laid to rest in a gold-plated coffin along with his trademark Homburg hat and lion's tail fly-whisk near parliament in Lilongwe, where construction of the mausoleum began in 2004. By Ashok Dixit (ANI)

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