History of Zambia

The history of Zambia can conveniently be classified into two periods: early Zambian history and early Zambian politics.



Early History

The arrival of the Lundas, the Bembas, the Lozis, the Bisas and many more tribes in the 18th century marked the beginning of the history of Zambia.

This development was followed by the arrival of the traders and settlers. Missionaries were also part of the group and they travelled all over the country.

This was the time of David Livingstone, known for his discovery of the Victoria Falls, and Cecil Rhodes, where the country got its name as Northern Rhodesia in colonial times.

The discovery of copper deposits in the 1920,s led to an influx of whites into the Copperbelt. In 1924, the British declared the country a colony and the status quo remained unchanged for the next 40 years.

Early Zambian Politics

During this time, the country belonged to the federation of Northern Rhodesia (Now Zambia), Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (Malawi).

What featured much in this part of the early history of Zambia is strong opposition to the federation that people exhibited. Eventually, this led to the formation of the first political party, the African National Congress. Involved in the party were men like Simon Kapwepwe, Harry Mwanga Nkumbula and Kenneth Kaunda, who because of leadership misunderstandings formed the United National Independence Party (UNIP).

Kenneth Kaunda

Kenneth Kaunda later became Zambia’s first president in 1964. This was after a lot of protests and demonstrations.

The new country started off very well. The prices of copper were at an all-time high. However, in 1972, the political scene changed with the declaration of the one party state. This meant that no other party, apart from UNIP, could exist. Other parties were either fused in or were disbanded.

Problems started in 1975. The country witnessed a slump in copper prices. Later on Kaunda began supporting liberation struggles of neighbouring countries.

The economy was sluggish and the people were going through hard times. They rioted and demonstrated. There were food shortages and high levels of unemployment. This led Kenneth Kaunda, the humanist and champion of the liberation struggles in southern Africa, to call for an early election, which marshalled in Frederick Chiluba as second Zambian President on 31st of October 1991, in the history of Zambia.

Frederick Chiluba

Frederick Chiluba had managed to sway the crowds in his favour with his oratory powers. The new president had a mammoth task of turning the economy around.

The president embarked on a wholesale privatization of the state enterprises. Some viable companies were sold but the non-profit enterprises were simply liquidated. He opened up the Zambian economy to the outside and the shops were filled up with foreign goods.

Because the goods from the outside were cheap compared to those locally manufactured, many companies which could not compete went under. Because of this, a lot of people were laid off.

When his last term came to a close, Chiluba’s bid to go for a third term failed.

This forced him to choose Levy Mwanawasa, the one-time vice-president in his first cabinet, to succeed him.

It was this same Mwanawasa who lifted his immunity to pave way for investigations into alleged corruption scandals. The court appearances went on for 8 years until his acquittal on 17th August 2009.

The acquittal was received with mixed feelings on the part of the populace. Time will tell…

Levy Patrick Mwanawasa

Upon assuming office, the new president started to fight corruption and abuse of office in the last administration. This implicated Frederick Chiluba as well. His immunity was removed in March 2002, to pave way for investigations. 

During his presidency, Levy Mwanawasa suffered two strokes, one in April 2006 and another on 29 June 2008 in Egypt. Due to complications attributed to the second stroke, President Levy Mwanawasa died on 19 August 2008.

His place was taken by Rupiah Banda, as acting president.

Rupiah B Banda

On 30 October 2008, elections were held and in a closely contested fight among four presidential contenders, Rupiah B Banda became victorious. Rupiah Banda scored 718,359 votes against his closest rival Michael Sata, who garnered 683,150 votes.

On 02 November 2008 at 14.42hrs Zambian time, Rupiah B Banda was inaugurated as president and became the fourth Zambian president in the history of Zambia.

Michael Chilufya Sata

Michael Chilufya Sata, popularly known as ‘King Cobra’, became the 5th democratically elected Zambian president on 23rd September 2011.

Edgar C Lungu

Edgar C Lungu, assumed office as the sixth President of Zambia on 25 January 2015. He was sworn in at the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka. 

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