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1959: African activist flees to UK

An independence movement leader wanted in the British territory of Nyasaland in central Africa has fled to London and gone into hiding.

Kanyama Chiume, one of the leaders of the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC) escaped arrest on Tuesday because he had been in Kenya.

All of the groups' other activists including leader Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda were rounded up in early morning raids on their homes and forcibly taken to neighbouring Southern Rhodesia.

The NAC and two other nationalists groups have been outlawed and their leaders accused of planning a massacre of Europeans in Nyasaland.

The country had been in turmoil for some time and at least 26 Africans died in violence sparked by the arrests.

A state of emergency is now in force.

'Fabrication'

If criminal charges are filed against him in Nyasaland Mr Chiume faces the prospect of arrest and being returned home.

However, the law under which such extradition is invoked has never yet been applied in a political case.

Speaking to reporters after flying into London, Mr Chiume, 29, said he would remain in hiding until his legal position had been clarified.

"I don't mind being arrested but first I would like to do what I can to clear the name of my leader, Dr Banda," he said.

Allegations of a planned massacre were a fabrication designed to destroy the opposition to federation in central Africa, Mr Chiume added.

Nyasaland's three million Africans vastly outnumber the 7,000 Europeans in the country.

In spite of white-minority rule, relations between the races have been largely cordial compared to some other African states and there is a limited black representation on Nyasaland's legislative council.

The trouble began after Nyasaland was merged into the Central African Federation with British-ruled Rhodesia in 1953.

Black activists feared Rhodesia's racially-discriminatory policies could be applied to Nyasaland.

The group became more militant when Dr Banda took over the leadership last year after his return from 40 years of "voluntary exile".

He spent much of that time in London where he practiced medicine.

In Context
The Central African Federation was dissolved in 1963.

Nyasaland gained its independence from Britain the following year and was renamed Malawi.

Malawi's first ruler was Hastings Banda who attracted much criticism for establishing diplomatic ties with South Africa in 1967 duirng the days of apartheid.

In 1971 Dr Banda declared himself President-for-life.

Kanyama Chiume, once a close ally of Dr Banda, fell out of favour and fled the country.

Hastings Banda finally lost power in 1994 after being forced to hold elections.

He died in 1997 aged 101.

Malawi is one of the world's poorest countries and prone to drought and heavy rainfall which cause extreme shortages of food.

It has also been hard hit by Aids leaving the country with hundreds of thousands of orphans.

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