History of Zambia
Today the country is made up almost entirely of Bantu-speaking peoples. Empire builder Cecil Rhodes obtained mining concessions in 1889 from King Lewanika of the Barotse and sent settlers to the area soon thereafter. The region was ruled by the British South Africa Company, which Rhodes established, until 1924, when the British government took over the administration.
From 1953 to 1964, Northern Rhodesia was federated with Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (now Malawi) in the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. On Oct. 24, 1964, Northern Rhodesia became the independent nation of Zambia.
Kenneth Kaunda, the first president, kept Zambia within the Commonwealth of Nations. The country's economy, dependent on copper exports, was threatened when Rhodesia declared its independence from British rule in 1965 and defied UN sanctions, which Zambia supported, an action that deprived Zambia of its trade route through Rhodesia. The U.S., Britain, and Canada organized an airlift in 1966 to ship gasoline into Zambia.
In 1972 Kaunda outlawed all opposition political parties. The world copper market collapsed in 1975. The Zambian economy was devastated—it had been the third-largest miner of copper in the world after the United States and Soviet Union. With a soaring debt and inflation rate in 1991, riots took place in Lusaka, resulting in a number of killings. Mounting domestic pressure forced Kaunda to move Zambia toward multiparty democracy. National elections on Oct. 31, 1991, brought a stunning defeat to Kaunda. The new president, Frederick Chiluba, called for sweeping economic reforms, including privatization and the establishment of a stock market. He was reelected in Nov. 1996. Chiluba declared martial law in 1997 and arrested Kaunda following a failed coup attempt. The 1999 slump in world copper prices again depressed the economy because copper provides 80% of Zambia's export earnings.
In 2001 Chiluba contemplated changing the constitution to allow him to run for another presidential term. After protests he relented and selected Levy Mwanawasa, a former vice president with whom he had fallen out, as his successor. Mwanawasa became president in Jan. 2002; opposition parties protested over alleged fraud. In June 2002, Mwanawasa, once seen as a pawn of Chiluba, accused the former president of stealing millions from the government while in office. Chiluba was arrested and charged in Feb. 2003.
Although the country faced the threat of famine in 2002, the president refused to accept any international donations of food that had been genetically modified, which Mwanawasa considered “poison.” In Aug. 2003, impeachment proceedings against the president for corruption were rejected by parliament. In April 2005, the World Bank approved a $3.8 billion debt relief package for the country.
In Sept. 2006 presidential elections, incumbent Levy Mwanawasa was reelected.