Archaeological evidence suggests that early humans roamed present-day Zambia between 2,000,000 and 1,000,000 years ago. Stone Age sites and artifacts are found in many areas. Early Iron Age peoples settled in the region with their agriculture and domesticated animals about 2,000 years ago. Ancestors of the modern Tonga tribe reached the region early in the 2nd millennium AD, but other modern peoples reached the country only in the 17th and 18th centuries from Zaire (D.R.Congo) and Angola. Portuguese trading missions were established early in the 18th century at the confluence of the Zambezi and Luangwa rivers. The mighty state of Lunda began to lose power towards the end of the 18th century. The slave trade declined in the 19th century, weakening the authority of the Mwata Yambo (traditional Lunda leaders). This, coupled with the growing autonomy of Kazembes (provincial governors), gave rise to small local autocratic states. In 1835 a group of Bantu-speaking Ngoni settled in the Lake Nyasa-Luangwa watershed. The Sotho people, the Kololo (Makololo), crossed the upper Zambezi and in 1835 took control of what became Barotseland.
In 1851, David Livingstone, a British missionary, followed the Zambezi river as far as Victoria Falls. Later came merchants and explorers in the service of British-born millionaire Cecil Rhodes, who owned a vast fortune in South Africa and wanted to expand northwards. In 1889 the British Crown granted Rhodes, and his British-South Africa Company exclusive rights to establish a mining and trade monopoly in the Katanga area in present-day D R Congo (formerly Zaire). A year later Cecil Rhodes signed a treaty with the Barotse ruler Lewanika and this protectorate was soon followed by colonial domination which created Northern Rhodesia (Zambia).
The British-South Africa Company kept control of this territory in order to prevent the Portuguese from achieving their plan of joining Angola and Mozambique. In 1909, a railway line was built to the coast of the Indian Ocean and in 1924, Britain assumed direct control of the region, developing arable and livestock farms along the railway. South African and US mining companies increased their investment in copper, and 13 years later nearly 40,000 Africans worked in the mines which made massive profits as the labor was cheap. The miserable conditions of the miners led to protest campaigns and stimulated the formation of workers unions; the Northern Rhodesia African National Congress (NRANC), linked to South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC), was born in this era. In 1952, Kenneth Kaunda, a primary school teacher, became NRANC secretary-general with Harry Nkumbula as president. Kaunda was to be Zambia’s main leader in the independence struggle.
In 1953, the British engineered a federation which threatened to serve white settler interests alone. The Federation comprised Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (Malawi), assigning Zambia mining production and Zimbabwe, agricultural. The ANC had just launched its struggle for independence and against racial discrimination. When Nkumbula hesitated before a constitutional project designed to institutionalize European domination, Kaunda chose to leave the NRANC, founding the African National Council of Zambia (ANCZ) and boycotting the elections.
The ANCZ was promptly outlawed and Kaunda was arrested in 1959. Undaunted, his followers created the United National Independence Party (UNIP), which Kaunda chaired when he was released in 1960.
The UNIP was outlawed a few months later when the British recognized the existence of popular support for the Party’s nationalist platform. In 1961, repression and marginalization of the majority led to an outbreak of violence in Zambia. By October 1964, the Federation was dissolved, UNIP candidates had won the general election and proclaimed independence.
Zambia actively supported liberation movements in Angola and Mozambique. It nationalized its copper reserves, acted as a founding member of OCEC (Organization of Copper Exporting Countries), sometimes referred to as the «copper OPEC», and served as host for the 3rd Summit Meeting of the Non-Aligned Countries Movement in 1970.
In 1974, with the inauguration of the Tan-Zam Railway, Zambia gained access to an ocean outlet not dominated by colonial forces. In the same year, Angolan and Mozambican independence brought about a complete turnaround in the regional balance of power.
Zimbabwean independence in 1980 was welcomed by Zambia. However, forces from the South African army made incursions into Zambia, attacking Namibian refugee camps. In October, a coup against Kaunda, supported by the South African regime, failed.
The situation forced the Government to decree a state of emergency and curfew.
President Kaunda tried to surround himself with former comrades-at-arms, generating friction with the younger sectors, who felt that after Zimbabwe’s independence, they no longer needed to live in a climate of war. They even questioned the one-party system. This inter-generational conflict diminished after the October 1983 election, where President Kenneth Kaunda won 93 per cent of the votes, 10 per cent more than in 1978.
In 1984, Zambia faced drought, the worsening of the economic crisis, and trade union demands for wage-increases. Severe food shortages affected 300,000 people. The constant deterioration of world copper prices led the Government to announce a price rise of up to 70 per cent on basic foodstuffs in July 1984 as part of an IMF-adjustment-programme.
The rising cost of living led Zambian trade unions to protest against IMF impositions. Various strikes broke out in early 1985 and were suppressed by security forces.
Toward the end of that year, IMF conditions for a $200 million credit for the 1986-87 period led to a decision to increase the price of corn meal. This caused violent protests in the mining region in the northern part of the country. Three days of protests and looting left 15 people dead and $90 million of damage done. In May 1987 Kaunda changed his policy towards the IMF and limited debt servicing to 10 per cent of the country’s foreign exchange.
With 45 per cent abstention, Kaunda was re-elected in 1988. The following elections were brought forward 2 years to 1991, because of the critical economic situation. That time, Kaunda was defeated by Frederick Chiluba, a former union leader who gained 81 per cent of the vote, and 125 of the 150 seats in Parliament. Kaunda resigned as UNIP party leader in January 1992.
The new government restructured the economy, privatized state enterprises and doubled the price of corn meal and other basic consumer goods. In December 1992, the Government adopted the IMF and the World Bank recommendations, devaluing the country’s currency by 29 per cent, freeing the exchange market and deregulating foreign trade. In early 1992, Southern Africa experienced the worst drought of the century, resulting in widespread food shortages.
A meeting of Western countries called by the World Bank granted $400 million of food aid to Zambia, and the Paris Club agreed to restructure its debt.
President Chiluba declared Christianity the official religion and banned the formation of a fundamentalist party. The Muslim religious authorities estimated there were around 1.2 million Shi’a believers and more than one million Sunnis in the country.
In March 1993, a state of emergency was called in an attempt to undermine a campaign of civil disobedience. Several members of UNIP - who admitted there had been a plot - were imprisoned. The state of emergency was lifted at the end of the month.
Inflation reached 140 per cent in 1993. The Government had to reduce public spending, promote the privatization of companies and fight drug trafficking in order to get the aid asked of the Paris Club in 1994.
The University of Zambia was closed in April 1994, when 300 teachers and researchers were dismissed for striking over pay claims. The reduction of spending on public schools led to constant teachers strikes.
Accusations of corruption and of the lack of agricultural policy in 1995 led President Chiluba to ask his minister of lands to resign, and the others to declare their incomes. Shortly afterwards he sacked the governor of the Bank of Zambia when the local currency, the kwacha, was suddenly devalued by 20 per cent. Chiluba attributed the crisis to the foreign debt - servicing this ate up 40 per cent of GDP. The Trade minister admitted in July that 5.5 of the 9.5 million Zambians live in extreme poverty.
In March 1996, the Paris Club cancelled 67 per cent of Zambia’s debt. The implementation of the structural adjustment programme dictated by the IMF and the World Bank in 1997 led to increased poverty amongst the rural population and redundancies for at least 150,000 workers with the privatization of the State companies.
A controversial bill in May 1996, passed by the President, amended the Constitution to state that presidential candidates must be second-generation Zambians. Chiluba was re-elected in November 1996.
In November 1997, a month after a failed coup attempt, several people - including former president Kaunda, disqualified from standing for re-election by the constitutional amendment - were arrested for alleged links with the rebel troops. Representatives of the opposition and human rights organizations said that the failed coup became a pretext for summary arrests and torture.
The Government imposed a state of emergency for three months, but it continued until March 1998. In June Kaunda was freed from house arrest and the charges against him were dropped. Meanwhile, the former president announced his retirement from leadership of the United National Independence Party.
Falling international copper prices blocked the sale of the Nkana and Nchanga mines called for by potential aid donors, complicating the government situation. At the end of the year, droughts and floods combined in different regions, disbanding the national economy. The UN World Food Program sent aid worth $17 million toward the end of this year. In November, a few months after being forced to resign, former economy minister Ronald Penza was assassinated.
The advance of rebel troops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the army in Angola brought waves of refugees into Zambia. In May of this year the UN and the Organization for African Unity looked into claims of Zambian collaboration with the Angolan UNITA. Leaders of the Congolese opposition arrived in Lusaka in September to sign a peace agreement with the Angolan government, but their differences were too great to be overcome at this time.
The Angolan army concentrated troops on the frontier with Zambia in January 2000 in order to combat the remaining UNITA guerrillas, causing concern amongst the Zambian armed forces. The mass of Angolan refugees in Zambian territory grew so intensely that life in the camps became endangered. The UN was obliged to send food aid in order to supplement that sent by the government in Lusaka. In February, Chiluba refused Angolan troops permission to enter Zambian territory and he moved troops into the zone to ensure there was no unauthorized entry. In April, the government declared it would be prepared to receive the white farmers expelled by violence in the neighboring Zimbabwe.
Source : Britannica