Zambia, officially the Republic of Zambia, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, neighbouring the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west. The capital city is Lusaka, in the south-central part of Zambia. The population is concentrated mainly around Lusaka in the south and the Copperbelt Province to the northwest, the core economic hubs of the country.
Originally inhabited by Khoisan peoples, the region was affected by the Bantu expansion of the thirteenth century. After visits by European explorers in the eighteenth century, the region became the British protectorates of Barotziland-North-Western Rhodesia and North-Eastern Rhodesia towards the end of the nineteenth century. These were merged in 1911 to form Northern Rhodesia. For most of the colonial period, Zambia was governed by an administration appointed from London with the advice of the British South Africa Company.
On 24 October 1964, Zambia became independent of the United Kingdom and prime minister Kenneth Kaunda became the inaugural president. Kaunda’s socialist United National Independence Party (UNIP) maintained power from 1964 until 1991. Kaunda played a key role in regional diplomacy, cooperating closely with the United States in search of solutions to conflicts in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Angola, and Namibia. From 1972 to 1991 Zambia was a one-party state with the UNIP as the sole legal political party under the motto “One Zambia, One Nation”. Kaunda was succeeded by Frederick Chiluba of the social-democratic Movement for Multi-Party Democracy in 1991, beginning a period of social-economic growth and government decentralisation. Levy Mwanawasa, Chiluba’s chosen successor, presided over Zambia from January 2002 until his death in August 2008, and is credited with campaigns to reduce corruption and increase the standard of living. After Mwanawasa’s death, Rupiah Banda presided as Acting President before being elected President in 2008. Holding office for only three years, Banda stepped down after his defeat in the 2011 elections by Patriotic Front party leader Michael Sata. Sata died on 28 October 2014, the second Zambian president to die in office. Guy Scott served briefly as interim president until new elections were held on 20 January 2015, in which Edgar Lungu was elected as the sixth President.
The territory of what is now Zambia was known as Northern Rhodesia from 1911. It was renamed Zambia at independence in 1964. The new name of Zambia was derived from the Zambezi river (Zambezi may mean “River of God”)
The area of modern Zambia is known to have been inhabited by the Khoisan until around AD 300, when migrating Bantu began to settle around these areas. These early hunter-gatherer groups were later either annihilated or absorbed by subsequent more organised Bantu groups.
Archaeological excavation work on the Zambezi Valley and Kalambo Falls show a succession of human cultures. In particular, ancient camping site tools near the Kalambo Falls have been radiocarbon dated to more than 36,000 year ago.
The fossil skull remains of Broken Hill Man, dated between 300,000 and 125,000 years BC, further shows that the area was inhabited by pre-historic man.
The early history of the peoples of modern Zambia can only be gleaned from knowledge passed down by generations through word of mouth.
In the 12th century, waves of Bantu-speaking immigrants arrived during the Bantu expansion. Among them, the Tonga people (also called Ba-Tonga, “Ba-” meaning “men”) were the first to settle in Zambia and are believed to have come from the east near the “big sea”. The Nkoya people also arrived early in the expansion, coming from the Luba–Lunda kingdoms in the southern parts of the modern Democratic Republic of the Congo and northern Angola, followed by a much larger influx, especially between the late 12th and early 13th centuries.
By the late 12th century, more advanced kingdoms and empires had been established in most regions of modern Zambia.
To the east, the Maravi Empire, also spanning the vast areas of Malawi and parts of modern northern Mozambique began to flourish under Kalonga.
At the end of the 18th century, some of the Mbunda migrated to Barotseland, Mongu upon the migration of among others, the Ciyengele. The Aluyi and their leader, the Litunga Mulambwa, especially valued the Mbunda for their fighting ability.
In the early 19th century, the Nsokolo people settled in the Mbala district of Northern Province. During the 19th century, the Ngoni and Sotho peoples arrived from the south. By the late 19th century, most of the various peoples of Zambia were established in their current areas.
The earliest European to visit the area was the Portuguese explorer Francisco de Lacerda in the late 18th century. Lacerda led an expedition from Mozambique to the Kazembe region in Zambia (with the goal of exploring and to crossing Southern Africa from coast to coast for the first time), and died during the expedition in 1798. The expedition was from then on led by his friend Francisco Pinto. This territory, located between Portuguese Mozambique and Portuguese Angola, was claimed and explored by Portugal in that period.
Other European visitors followed in the 19th century. The most prominent of these was David Livingstone, who had a vision of ending the slave trade through the “3 Cs”: Christianity, Commerce and Civilization. He was the first European to see the magnificent waterfalls on the Zambezi River in 1855, naming them the Victoria Falls after Queen Victoria. He described them thus: “Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight”.
Locally the falls are known as “Mosi-o-Tunya” or “thundering smoke” in the Lozi or Kololo dialect. The town of Livingstone, near the Falls, is named after him. Highly publicised accounts of his journeys motivated a wave of European visitors, missionaries and traders after his death in 1873.
British South Africa Company
In 1888, the British South Africa Company (BSA Company), led by Cecil Rhodes, obtained mineral rights from the Litunga of the Lozi people, the Paramount Chief of the Lozi (Ba-rotse) for the area which later became Barotziland-North-Western Rhodesia. To the east, in December 1897 a group of the Angoni or Ngoni (originally from Zululand) rebelled under Tsinco, son of King Mpezeni, but the rebellion was put down, and Mpezeni accepted the Pax Britannica. That part of the country then came to be known as North-Eastern Rhodesia. In 1895, Rhodes asked his American scout Frederick Russell Burnham to look for minerals and ways to improve river navigation in the region, and it was during this trek that Burnham discovered major copper deposits along the Kafue River.
North-Eastern Rhodesia and Barotziland-North-Western Rhodesia were administered as separate units until 1911 when they were merged to form Northern Rhodesia, a British protectorate. In 1923, the BSA Company ceded control of Northern Rhodesia to the British Government after the government decided not to renew the Company’s charter.
In 1923, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), a conquered territory which was also administered by the BSA Company, became a self-governing British colony. In 1924, after negotiations, administration of Northern Rhodesia transferred to the British Colonial Office.
Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland
In 1953, the creation of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland grouped together Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now Malawi) as a single semi-autonomous region. This was undertaken despite opposition from a sizeable minority of the population, who demonstrated against it in 1960–61. Northern Rhodesia was the centre of much of the turmoil and crisis characterising the federation in its last years. Initially, Harry Nkumbula’s African National Congress (ANC) led the campaign, which Kenneth Kaunda’s United National Independence Party (UNIP) subsequently took up.
A two-stage election held in October and December 1962 resulted in an African majority in the legislative council and an uneasy coalition between the two African nationalist parties. The council passed resolutions calling for Northern Rhodesia’s secession from the federation and demanding full internal self-government under a new constitution and a new National Assembly based on a broader, more democratic franchise.
The federation was dissolved on 31 December 1963, and in January 1964, Kaunda won the only election for Prime Minister of Northern Rhodesia. The Colonial Governor, Sir Evelyn Hone, was very close to Kaunda and urged him to stand for the post. Soon after, there was an uprising in the north of the country known as the Lumpa Uprising led by Alice Lenshina – Kaunda’s first internal conflict as leader of the nation.
Northern Rhodesia became the Republic of Zambia on 24 October 1964, with Kenneth Kaunda as the first president. At independence, despite its considerable mineral wealth, Zambia faced major challenges. Domestically, there were few trained and educated Zambians capable of running the government, and the economy was largely dependent on foreign expertise. This expertise was provided in part by John Willson CMG There were over 70,000 Europeans resident in Zambia in 1964, and they remained of disproportionate economic significance.
Tensions with neighbours
Kaunda’s endorsement of Patriotic Front guerrillas conducting raids into neighbouring (Southern) Rhodesia resulted in political tension and a militarisation of the border, leading to its closure in 1973. The Kariba hydroelectric station on the Zambezi River provided sufficient capacity to satisfy the country’s requirements for electricity, despite Rhodesian management.
On 3 September 1978, a Russian-supplied heat-seeking missile was used to shoot down a civilian airliner, Air Rhodesia Flight 825, near Kariba. Miraculously, 18 people, including children, survived the crash only for most of them to be shot in cold blood by militants of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) led by Joshua Nkomo. Rhodesia responded with Operation Gatling, an attack on Nkomo’s guerilla bases in Zambia, in particular his military headquarters just outside Lusaka; this raid became known as the Green Leader Raid. On the same day, two more bases in Zambia were attacked using air power and elite paratroops and helicopter-borne troops.
A railway (TAZARA – Tanzania Zambia Railways) to the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam, completed in 1975 with Chinese assistance, reduced Zambian dependence on railway lines south to South Africa and west through an increasingly troubled Portuguese Angola. Until the completion of the railway, Zambia’s major artery for imports and the critical export of copper was along the TanZam Road, running from Zambia to the port cities in Tanzania. The Tazama oil pipeline was also built from Dar es Salaam to Ndola in Zambia.
By the late 1970s, Mozambique and Angola had attained independence from Portugal. Rhodesia’s predominantly white government, which issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965, accepted majority rule under the Lancaster House Agreement in 1979.
Civil strife in both Portuguese colonies and a mounting Namibian War of Independence resulted in an influx of refugees and compounded transportation issues. The Benguela railway, which extended west through Angola, was essentially closed to Zambian traffic by the late 1970s. Zambia’s support for anti-apartheid movements such as the African National Congress (ANC) also created security problems as the South African Defence Force struck at dissident targets during external raids.
In the mid-1970s, the price of copper, Zambia’s principal export, suffered a severe decline worldwide. In Zambia’s situation, the cost of transporting the copper great distances to market was an additional strain. Zambia turned to foreign and international lenders for relief, but, as copper prices remained depressed, it became increasingly difficult to service its growing debt. By the mid-1990s, despite limited debt relief, Zambia’s per capita foreign debt remained among the highest in the world.
In June 1990 riots against Kaunda accelerated. Many protesters were killed by the regime in breakthrough June 1990 protests. In 1990 Kaunda survived an attempted coup, and in 1991 he agreed to reinstate multiparty democracy, having instituted one party rule under the Choma Commission of 1972. Following multiparty elections, Kaunda was removed from office (see below).
In the 2000s, the economy stabilized, attaining single-digit inflation in 2006–2007, real GDP growth, decreasing interest rates, and increasing levels of trade. Much of its growth is due to foreign investment in mining and to higher world copper prices. All this led to Zambia being courted enthusiastically by aid donors, and saw a surge in investor confidence in the country.
Zambia is a landlocked country in southern Africa, with a tropical climate, and consists mostly of high plateaus with some hills and mountains, dissected by river valleys. At 752,614 km2 (290,586 sq mi) it is the 39th-largest country in the world, slightly smaller than Chile. The country lies mostly between latitudes 8° and 18°S, and longitudes 22° and 34°E.
Zambia is drained by two major river basins: the Zambezi/Kafue basin in the centre, west and south covering about three-quarters of the country; and the Congo basin in the north covering about one-quarter of the country. A very small area in the northeast forms part of the internal drainage basin of Lake Rukwa in Tanzania.
In the Zambezi basin, there are a number of major rivers flowing wholly or partially through Zambia: the Kabompo, Lungwebungu, Kafue, Luangwa, and the Zambezi itself, which flows through the country in the west and then forms its southern border with Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Its source is in Zambia but it diverts into Angola, and a number of its tributaries rise in Angola’s central highlands. The edge of the Cuando River floodplain (not its main channel) forms Zambia’s southwestern border, and via the Chobe River that river contributes very little water to the Zambezi because most is lost by evaporation.
Two of the Zambezi’s longest and largest tributaries, the Kafue and the Luangwa, flow mainly in Zambia. Their confluences with the Zambezi are on the border with Zimbabwe at Chirundu and Luangwa town respectively. Before its confluence, the Luangwa River forms part of Zambia’s border with Mozambique. From Luangwa town, the Zambezi leaves Zambia and flows into Mozambique, and eventually into the Mozambique Channel.
The Zambezi falls about 100 metres (328 ft) over the 1.6 km (0.99 mi) wide Victoria Falls, located in the south-west corner of the country, subsequently flowing into Lake Kariba. The Zambezi valley, running along the southern border, is both deep and wide. From Lake Kariba going east it is formed by grabens and like the Luangwa, Mweru-Luapula, Mweru-wa-Ntipa and Lake Tanganyika valleys, is a rift valley.
The north of Zambia is very flat with broad plains. In the west the most notable being the Barotse Floodplain on the Zambezi, which floods from December to June, lagging behind the annual rainy season (typically November to April). The flood dominates the natural environment and the lives, society and culture of the inhabitants and those of other smaller, floodplains throughout the country.
In Eastern Zambia the plateau which extends between the Zambezi and Lake Tanganyika valleys is tilted upwards to the north, and so rises imperceptibly from about 900 m (2,953 ft) in the south to 1,200 m (3,937 ft) in the centre, reaching 1,800 m (5,906 ft) in the north near Mbala. These plateau areas of northern Zambia have been categorised by the World Wildlife Fund as a large section of the Central Zambezian Miombo woodlands ecoregion.
Eastern Zambia shows great diversity. The Luangwa Valley splits the plateau in a curve north east to south west, extended west into the heart of the plateau by the deep valley of the Lunsemfwa River. Hills and mountains are found by the side of some sections of the valley, notably in its north-east the Nyika Plateau (2,200 m or 7,218 ft) on the Malawi border, which extend into Zambia as the Mafinga Hills, containing the country’s highest point, Mafinga Central (2,339 m or 7,674 ft).
The Muchinga Mountains, the watershed between the Zambezi and Congo drainage basins, run parallel to the deep valley of the Luangwa River and form a sharp backdrop to its northern edge, although they are almost everywhere below 1,700 m (5,577 ft). Their culminating peak Mumpu is at the western end and at 1,892 m (6,207 ft) is the highest point in Zambia away from the eastern border region. The border of the Congo Pedicle was drawn around this mountain.
The southernmost headstream of the Congo River rises in Zambia and flows west through its northern area firstly as the Chambeshi and then, after the Bangweulu Swamps as the Luapula, which forms part of the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Luapula flows south then west before it turns north until it enters Lake Mweru. The lake’s other major tributary is the Kalungwishi River, which flows into it from the east. The Luvua River drains Lake Mweru, flowing out of the northern end to the Lualaba River (Upper Congo River).
Lake Tanganyika is the other major hydrographic feature that belongs to the Congo basin. Its south-eastern end receives water from the Kalambo River, which forms part of Zambia’s border with Tanzania. This river has Africa’s second highest uninterrupted waterfall, the Kalambo Falls.
Zambia is located on the plateau of Central Africa, between 1000–1600 m above sea level. The average altitude of 1200 m generally has a moderate climate. The climate of Zambia is tropical, modified by elevation. In the Köppen climate classification, most of the country is classified as humid subtropical or tropical wet and dry, with small stretches of semi-arid steppe climate in the south-west and along the Zambezi valley.
There are two main seasons, the rainy season (November to April) corresponding to summer, and the dry season (May/June to October/November), corresponding to winter. The dry season is subdivided into the cool dry season (May/June to August), and the hot dry season (September to October/November). The modifying influence of altitude gives the country pleasant subtropical weather rather than tropical conditions during the cool season of May to August. However, average monthly temperatures remain above 20 °C (68 °F) over most of the country for eight or more months of the year.
There are 14 ecosystems in Zambia, classed into Forest, Thicket, Woodland and Grassland vegetation types.
Zambia has approximately 12,505 identified species—63% animal species, 33% plant species and 4% bacterial and microorganism species .
There are an estimated 3,543 species of wild flowering plants, consisting of sedges, herbaceous plants and woody plants . The Northern and North-Western parts of the country especially have the highest diversity of flowering plants. Approximately 53% of flowering plants are rate and occur throughout the country.
A total of 242 mammalian species exist, with most endemic ones occupying the woodland and grassland ecosystems. The Rhodesian giraffe and Kafue Lechwe are some of the well-known species that are endemic to Zambia.
An estimated 757 bird species are known to exist, of which 600 are either resident or afrotropic migrants; 470 breed in the country; and 100 are non-breding migrants. The Zambian barbet is a well-known species endemic to Zambia.
Roughly 490 known fish species, belonging to 24 fish families have been reported in Zambia, with Lake Tanganyika having the highest diverse and endemic species.Share this blog on:
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