Zambia was first colonised by the British South African Company in 1889, although it was not until 1924, when the company ceded administrative control to the British Crown (whereupon it became the colony of Northern Rhodesia), that serious exploitation of the country’s main natural resource, copper, began. From 1953 to 1963, the country found itself forming the northern part of the Central African Federation, essentially a pale form of apartheid, which enjoyed no support whatsoever among the black population.
Early humans inhabited present-day Zambia between one and two million years ago. 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. Despite fears that Chiluba would overstay his welcome, he was replaced at the December 2001 elections. His party, the MUD, was not. Chiluba's hand-picked successor Levy Mwanawasa won the vote, amid opposition claims of electoral fraud.
Despite the political chaos, the election, however flawed, returned one of the most broadly based democratic parliaments the country has seen, putting an end to the rubber-stamp, one-party system that has ruled since independence.Zambia finds itself in a horrendous quagmire of poverty, debt and disease, yet there is a fragile optimism that the country can yet rid itself of its legacy of mismanagement.
There are about 35 different ethnic groups or tribes in Zambia, all with their own languages. Main groups and languages include Bemba in the north and centre, Tonga in the south, Nyanja in the east, and Lozi in the west. English is now the national language and is widely spoken, even in remote areas. About two-thirds of the population is Christian, though many combine that with traditional animist beliefs. A lot of traditional Zambian music is heavily rhythmic, usually played on drums, whistles and thumb pianos, and nearly always to accompany dancing. One of the most popular styles, however, is an import from the Congo (Zaïre) - the rumba.
The staple dish in Zambia is a stiff porridge called nshima, commonly made from maize or sometimes sorghum. It's typically served in a communal dish and eaten with the right hand, rolling the nshima into a ball and dipping it into a sauce of meat or vegetables. In areas along rivers and lake shores, fish are also eaten. Popular freshwater types include bream, lake salmon and Nile perch.
African religions where people worship a Supreme Being or a natural element as the mother or father of the people. Many Zambians believe that the spirits of their ancestors can help empower them in times of need or difficulty. The Bemba believe that spirits dwell in animals or natural elements like rivers or stones. In the village the power of the traditional healer is unquestionable and people believe that this person can solve disputes and medical ailments because of supernatural powers. However missionary work and evangelism have led to these beliefs becoming more scarce.
Area: 290,584-sq mi.
Other cities: Ndola, Kitwe, Kabwe etc.
Other languages: major vernaculars: Bemba, Kaonda, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Nyanja, Tonga; about 70
Religions: Christian 50%–75%, Islam and Hindu 24%–49%, indigenous beliefs 1%