John Chilembwe honoured

2000 kwacha banknote

Since 2004, the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, London has been reserved for a series of temporary statues. The next occupant will be John Chilembwe, who is revered in Malawi as a national hero (see this BBC News article).

It’s a fascinating choice considering that the Square is a symbol of British power – and Chilembwe was a person who challenged it.

Born in Nyasaland (which became Malawi on independence in 1964) in 1871, Chilembwe was a preacher and educator who became increasingly affronted by both the treatment of Africans working on European-owned plantations and the British Government’s neglect of Africans’ social and political advancement.

Unfortunately, Chilembwe resorted to an armed rebellion in 1915 and was killed by a locally-recruited soldier while apparently trying to make his way to Mozambique.

To this day, Chilembwe’s face adorns the 2000 kwacha banknote and 15 January each year is a public holiday in his honour.

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