Zambia became independent from the British
colonial power in 1964. The country's first president
was Kenneth Kaunda, who led the Socialist-oriented
United National Independence Party (in English
abbreviated to UNIP).
While UNIP had great popular support, there were
strong contradictions within the party that often had
its roots in conflicts between different ethnic groups.
When former Vice President Simon Kapwepe formed a new
party dominated by the Bemba people in 1971, the UNIP
government felt threatened. Kapwepe's party was banned
the following year, and Zambia became a one-party state.
By constitutional amendments in 1978, all organized
opposition was banned in practice.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Zambia. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
Kaunda has long maintained its popularity and proved
to be a good politician. Through constant government
transformations and relocations of officials, he
prevented other people from acquiring a power base.
Kaunda was re-elected president at every election until
By the end of the 1980s, however, dissatisfaction
with Kaunda had grown strongly as a result of the
country's economy being in crisis. As one of the
so-called front states, Zambia had to pay a high price -
financially and humanely - for the support for
liberation movements in what is today Zimbabwe (then
Rhodesia), Namibia and South Africa. Zambia was
subjected to sabotage and attacks by the white
minority-led governments, and had to change its export
routes, which weakened the economy.
The severe economic crisis began in the early 1970s,
when world market prices for Zambia's most important
export commodity, copper, fell sharply while oil prices
rose. The country's mining industry started to lose.
Unemployment rose and food prices went up. Strikes and
demonstrations succeeded. In 1981, several union leaders
were arrested, among them the union leader Frederick
Chiluba, who would later become Zambia's president.
The government was forced to implement a series of
economic austerities, which hit the majority of the
population hard. From 1986 to 1987, the capital of
Lusaka and the mining districts in the north were shaken
by violent demonstrations against sharply raised food
prices. The price increase on maize, among other things,
was one of the requirements set by the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) to grant Zambia new loans.
Following a failed coup attempt in 1990, followed by
prolonged social unrest, the ban on political
organizations was lifted. Later that year, the
Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD)
was formed with Frederick Chiluba at the forefront.
Another eleven political organizations were founded in
the following months.
After pressure, Kaunda agreed to prepare for general
elections. In June 1991, a proposal for a new
constitution was presented, and in October free
elections were held. Contrary to what had been feared,
the election of foreign overseers was described as fair.
Chiluba won the presidential election with just over 75
percent of the vote. Kaunda accepted the loss. MMD won a
broad majority in the new parliament.
Chiluba turned out to be following the international
lenders' demands for financial cuts. It collided with
election promises of increased prosperity for the
people. Soon internal political problems also arose.
Vice President Levy Mwanawasa was injured in a car
accident, which was alleged to have been a planned
murder attempt. The relationship between MMD and UNIP
was icy, and bitter accusations hailed between the
parties. In September 1992, Kaunda resigned formally as
the leader of UNIP.
In the summer of 1994, UNIP and six other opposition
parties came together in one front. At the same time,
Kaunda announced that he wanted to run in the 1996
presidential election. UNIP re-elected Kaunda in 1995 as
The same year, a report was submitted by the special
commission Chiluba had appointed in 1993 to investigate
human rights violations committed during Kaunda's years
in power. The report showed that torture and other human
rights violations had also taken place in cells during
the presidential palace. Human rights violations were
generally common in Zambia.
Obstacle to Kaunda
To prevent Kaunda from running in the presidential
election, the government drafted an addition to the
Constitution that a person could not be president for
more than two periods. The extension also included other
barriers that were directly aimed at Kaunda. Despite
criticism from the outside world, the new constitutional
amendment was approved in May 1996.
The opposition front, which included UNIP, boycotted
the elections held in November that year. Chiluba won
the presidential election while MMD won the
parliamentary election. Victory margins were almost as
devastating as five years earlier.
However, the political situation remained unstable.
In October 1997, a group of officers conducted a coup
attempt, but they were overpowered after only a few
hours. Two days later, an emergency permit was
introduced. Kaunda was arrested and accused of having
known about the coup attempt in advance. In March 1998,
Chiluba withdrew the state of emergency following
pressure from donors. Later, 59 soldiers were sentenced
to death for participating in the coup attempt, but
executions were never executed.
When Kaunda was released in the summer of 1998, he
resigned as President of UNIP. But just over six months
later, he declared that he once again intended to enter
politics. This time, too, he encountered a patrol. In
April 1999, Kaunda was deprived of his Zambian
citizenship on the grounds that his parents were of
foreign origin. Thus, Kaunda could not stand in any
Kaunda's son is murdered
Another blow against Kaunda was the murder in
November 1999 of his son Wezi Kaunda. The police wrote
off the murder as a robbery when Wezi had been robbed of
his car, but the Kaunda family considered it to be
evidence of a political murder. Kenneth Kaunda finally
left active politics in the spring of 2000, after
regaining his citizenship. His son Tilyenji Kaunda took
over the party leader post in UNIP in the early 2000s.
From 2000, the contradictions began to increase
within the ruling MMD. Chiluba wanted to run for a third
term in the December 2001 presidential election, but he
was stopped by the rules he himself created to stop
Kaunda in 1996. According to the constitution, the
president was allowed to be re-elected only once. A
number of ministers were dismissed for protesting
against Chiluba's plans to change this rule in the
constitution. The plans were shelved after extensive
criticism from the outside world. The ministers who had
been fired formed a new party, the Forum for
Democracy and Development (FDD).
Throughout the MMD's power holdings, there was a
tension between the party and the Catholic Church, due
to the Church's criticism of MMD's undemocratic methods.
At times the tone was very fresh.
Mwanawasa becomes new president
Instead, Chiluba chose to appoint its former vice
president, Levy Mwanawasa, as the MMD's presidential
candidate. Mwanawasa was considered to have no political
base of its own, and the opposition within the party top
was sharpened and several dissatisfied members of
government formed new parties.
Mwanawasa was proclaimed hardly a winner in the
presidential election. According to the electoral
authorities, he won with 29 percent of the vote over
Anderson Mazoka from the United National
Development Party (UPND) who
received 27 percent.
In the parliamentary elections held at the same time,
MMD became the new largest party but did not get its own
majority. The election results triggered violent
demonstrations in Lusaka and the opposition refused to
acknowledge MMD's victory. The election was rejected by
EU observers. Despite this, Mwanawasa took office as
president in January 2002.
After the election victory, Mwanawasa immediately
showed that he was standing on his own legs. He cleaned
out Chiluba's supporters within the government as well
as the defense and security police. Mwanawasa quickly
launched a comprehensive campaign against the severe
corruption in the state administration. In 2003, Chiluba
was indicted on 264 counts for bribery and fraud. Other
politicians in Chiluba's immediate circle were indicted
for similar crimes.
Mawanawasa strengthens its power
In 2003, Mwanawasa incorporated several opposition
politicians into his government. The president stated
that he did this to unite the Zambians, but his
opponents felt he wanted to divide and weaken the
opposition. By the end of the year, MMD had achieved its
own majority in the National Assembly after winning a
series of filling elections.
In May of that year, Mwanawasa announced that the
constitution would be revised. He therefore appointed a
commission which was given this task. The opposition
parties and other organizations demanded that the
constitutional amendments, which included how the
president was elected, should come into force before the
2006 elections. But Mwanawasa ruled that the changes
could not be implemented until 2008 at the earliest and
that they must be approved in a referendum before they
could take effect.
The political parties began preparing early for the
presidential and parliamentary elections in September
2006. In March of the same year, the three major
opposition parties - UPND, FDD and UNIP - joined forces
in an election union, the United Democratic
Alliance (UDA), with the aim
of launching a joint presidential candidate. Popular
UPND leader Anderson Mazoka, who was given as UDA
candidate, passed away in May. Hakainde Hichilema
replaced Mazoka as leader of the UPND and also became
the opposition alliance UDA's presidential candidate.
MMD also ran into difficulties when Mwanawasa
suffered a stroke in March. However, the president
quickly returned to work and announced in August that he
was running for re-election.
Mwanawasa's main challenger was Michael Sata from the
Patriotic Front (PF).
Sata had previously been a combative but popular mayor
of Lusaka. Among other things, the populist Sata
promised to close down the judicial process against
Chiluba. However, Mwanawasa benefited from steadily
improving the country's economy during his term.
Election day passed quietly, but unrest erupted when
the Election Authority announced that Mwanawasa had won.
The final election result gave Mwanawasa 43 percent of
the vote, against 29 percent for Sata and 25 percent for
Hichilema from UPND. In the parliamentary elections held
at the same time, MMD once again became the largest
party with 72 seats, ahead of PF which received 44 seats
and UDA with 27 seats.
The corruption trial against Chiluba came on time and
the tours became more and more complicated. Eventually
the process was run both in the UK and in Zambia. In May
2007, Chiluba was convicted in the absence of a court in
London for stealing the equivalent of $ 46 million from
the Zambian state. He was obliged to repay the money,
but that never happened. In 2009, Chiluba was cleared of
all charges by a Zambian court, which found that it was
not possible to prove that part of Chiluba's wealth came
from state funds.
Mwanawasa dies - historical shift in power
In June 2008, President Mwanawasa suffered a new
stroke and died almost two months later. In a filling
election to the presidential post, Vice President Rupiah
Banda of the MMD triumphed over PF's Sata. Election
observers from neighboring countries rejected the
opposition's accusations of electoral fraud on the part
of the ruling party. After the election, Banda carried
out a government transformation and kicked one of its
main rivals, Finance Minister Ngandu Magande. Banda was
then elected new MMD leader.
In September 2011, a historic shift of power
occurred, with the opposition winning both the
presidential and parliamentary elections. The MMD had
then held the government for 20 years. PF leader Sata
defeated Banda by a wide margin in the presidential
election. Many first-time voters were attracted by
Sata's promises of more jobs and better finances.
International observers approved the election.
In the parliamentary elections, PF became the largest
party with 60 seats, but it did not get its own majority
in the assembly. A good second was MMD with 55 seats,
while UPND received 29 seats. After a series of filling
elections, PF gradually increased its representation in
Parliament to about half of the mandate.
The change of power in 2011 showed that Zambia's
political system - despite its shortcomings - had
managed to make a peaceful change of president and
government. It was something that several of Zambia's
neighboring countries had failed.
Sensitive to criticism
In office, President Sata, called "King of the Kings"
because of his sharp tongue, toned down his earlier
criticism of China, which had become an important
trading partner and investor.
The Sata government initially pursued an expansionary
economic policy. Among other things, it introduced
subsidies on maize. However, falling copper prices and
lower tax revenues contributed to a growing government
budget deficit. In 2013, Sata was forced to abolish the
subsidies on maize and fuel, which triggered popular
protests. And despite good economic growth, unemployment
Both opposition parties and human rights groups
criticized Sata for harassing opponents and for not
tolerating criticism. He had promised to fight
corruption when he took office, but in some cases the
purpose of the fight against corruption seemed to be a
way of silencing critics. In 2013, for example, former
President Rupiah Banda was indicted for bribery.
Journalists who reported on alleged corruption were
arrested, as were opposition politicians who criticized
President Sata dies
During the 2011 election campaign, Sata had promised
the Lozi people group that the autonomy they had in the
former British protectorate Barotseland in western
Zambia would be restored, in accordance with an
agreement from the independence. As president, however,
Sata withdrew from this promise, citing that the country
could be split if other peoples were to pursue similar
Nor did the Sata government clarify the ambiguities
surrounding the revision of the constitution - a process
that began in 2003. The president considered that it
would suffice to make certain constitutional amendments
while various civic groups, congregations and others
wanted to do a more comprehensive review and that a new
constitutional proposal would be approved. in a
On October 28, 2014, President Sata passed away at a
hospital in London, four days after Zambia celebrated 50
years as an independent state. The president, who turned
77, did not attend the celebration. During the past
year, Sata's growing health problems had become
increasingly noticeable, but it was a sensitive topic to
touch in public.
Former President Frederick Chiluba is arrested by police and charged with
Twenty soldiers are pardoned after the death sentence
Over 40 soldiers are sentenced to death for participating in a coup attempt
in 1997. All are later pardoned.
New President assumes office
Levy Mwanawasa from the ruling party The Movement for Multiparty
Democracy (MMD) is installed as president after
winning the 2001 presidential election.
The ex-president is deprived of prosecution immunity
Parliament repeals former President Frederick Chiluba's prosecution immunity.
Chiluba is suspected of embezzling large sums of state funds.