UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Zambia - Foreign Relations

Zambia, under Kaunda, was a founder member of the 'front line states' which played a leading role in the liberation of neighbouring states in the 1970s and 1980s. Both the ANC of South Africa and SWAPO of Namibia had their headquarters in Lusaka for many years. This exposed Zambia to attacks from apartheid South Africa. Equally Zambia's support for ZAPU brought attacks from the white minority regime of Southern Rhodesia.

Despite a colonial legacy of extreme dependence on the white south and vulnerability to its pressure, as well as a worsening economic situation since 1974, Zanmia has been constantly in the forefront of the struggle tO'liberate Southern Africa. Hawever, as is the case in most countries' foreign policies in Zanmia political principles and ideals regarding the struggle against colonialism and Apartheid were tempered by a realistic pursuit of its own narrowly defined national interests. It was estimated that transport difficulties and sanctions arising from Zanmia's opposition to the Smith regime in Rhodesia cost Zanmia the best part of US $ 1 billion. During the 1970s Zambia backed same of the losers in the liberation struggles. For example, in Angola, while Zambia had given early backing to the MPLA, it was later thought to have favoured a UNITA/FNLA. alliance against the MPLA. It was not until April 1976 that the Zambian Govemment recognized the MPLA government of Dr. Agostino Neto. Zambia played an important rale in struggle for independence in Namibia and openly supported SWAPO. It has been a consistent supporter of the ANC in the struggle against the Apartheid systern, while showing unwillingness to negotiate with South Africa's leaders on matters of regional peace and security.

After 1977 Zambia openly harbored guerillas loyal to the ZAPU wing of the Patriotic Front, this action led to reprisai raids by Rhodesia (in collaborations with South Africa) which increasingly focused on the disruption of Zambia's transport routes and other strategic targets. But, it was the ZANU wing of the Patriotic Front which came to power in Zimbabwe at Independence in April 1980 and it was not until July 1981 that President Kaunda made a state visit to Zimbabwe.

Zambia's sympathy for UNITA caused friction with Angola. Zambia's economy suffered badly when the border with Southern Rhodesia was closed on UDI, depriving it of cheap trade routes to the south. China financed and built the Tan-zam railway to allow Zambia to export its copper through Dar es Salaam instead. Overall, Zambia paid a heavy price for its support of the liberation struggle in southern Africa.

From the 1990s, with all countries in the region now independent, Zambia has maintained good relations with its neighbours. The spill-over from conflicts in Angola and DR Congo has occasionally strained relations with those two countries. Zambia has hosted thousands of refugees from both countries in UNHCR-run camps. Since the peace agreement in Angola in 2002, most Angolan refugees have returned home. Zambia has a good record of participation in UN Peace-Keeping operations. Zambia hosts the headquarters of COMESA.

Zambia is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the African Union, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), which is headquartered in Lusaka.

President Kaunda was a persistent and visible advocate of change in southern Africa, supporting liberation movements in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and South Africa. Many of these liberation organizations were based in Zambia during the 1970s and 1980s.

President Chiluba assumed a visible international role in the mid- and late 1990s. His government sponsored Angola peace talks that led to the 1994 Lusaka Protocols. Zambia provided troops to UN peacekeeping initiatives in Mozambique, Rwanda, Angola, and Sierra Leone. Zambia was the first African state to cooperate with the International Tribunal investigation of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

In 1998, Zambia took the lead in efforts to establish a cease-fire in Democratic Republic of the Congo. After the signing of a cease-fire agreement in Lusaka in July and August 1999, Zambia was active in supporting the Congolese peace effort, although activity diminished considerably after the Joint Military Commission tasked with implementing the ceasefire relocated to Kinshasa in September 2001.

During President Mwanawasa's administration, Zambia contributed troops to support UN peacekeeping operations in southern Sudan. During his tenure as SADC Chair, President Mwanawasa brought the issue of Zimbabwe to the fore in the SADC, taking a lead role in pressuring President Mugabe for reforms in his country. Zambia's history of stability and its commitment to regional peace has made it a haven for large numbers of refugees. Currently, Zambia hosts approximately 56,000 refugees (down from a high of 203,000 in 2002), including roughly 25,300 Angolans and 21,900 Congolese. Refugees of other nationalities are primarily Rwandans, Burundians, Somalis, and Ugandans. Since 2007, 33,000 Congolese refugees have been repatriated from Zambia, and this year the Government of Zambia and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expect to close two of the refugee camps that have housed Congolese.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list