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Zambia - Post-Colonial History

Northern Rhodesia was the center of much of the turmoil and crisis that characterized the federation in its last years. At the core of the controversy were insistent African demands for greater participation in government and European fears of losing political control.

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.

Following the Federation's collapse in 1963, Northern Rhodesia gained independence as the Republic of Zambia in 1964. On December 31, 1963, the federation was dissolved, and Northern Rhodesia became the Republic of Zambia on October 24, 1964.

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. Abroad, three of its neighbors--Southern Rhodesia and the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola--remained under white-dominated rule. Rhodesia's white-ruled government unilaterally declared independence in 1965. In addition, Zambia shared a border with South African-controlled South-West Africa (now Namibia).

Zambia's sympathies lay with forces opposing colonial or white-dominated rule, particularly in Southern Rhodesia. During the next decade, it actively supported movements such as the Union for the Total Liberation of Angola (UNITA), the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC), and the South-West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO).

Conflicts with Rhodesia resulted in the closing of Zambia's borders with that country and severe problems with international transport and power supply. However, the Kariba hydroelectric station on the Zambezi River provided sufficient capacity to satisfy the country's requirements for electricity. A railroad to the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam, built with Chinese assistance, reduced Zambian dependence on railroad lines south to South Africa and west through an increasingly troubled Angola.

At the end of 1972 Zambia was declared a one party state. By the late 1970s, Mozambique and Angola had attained independence from Portugal. Zimbabwe achieved independence in accordance with the 1979 Lancaster House agreement, but Zambia's problems were not solved. Civil war in the former Portuguese colonies generated refugees and caused continuing transportation problems. The Benguela Railroad, which extended west through Angola, was essentially closed to traffic from Zambia by the late 1970s. Zambia's strong support for the ANC, which had its external headquarters in Lusaka, created security problems as South Africa raided ANC targets in Zambia.

In the mid-1970s, the price of copper, Zambia's principal export, suffered a severe decline worldwide. Zambia turned to foreign and international lenders for relief, but as copper prices remained depressed, it became increasingly difficult to service its growing debt. In response to growing popular demand, and after lengthy, difficult negotiations between the Kaunda government and opposition groups, Zambia enacted a new constitution in 1991 and shortly thereafter became a multi-party democracy. Kaunda accepted the need for multi-party democracy, and in 1991 the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD), led by the trade unionist Frederick Chiluba, swept to power in both parliamentary and presidential elections. UNIP became the main opposition party.

Kaunda's successor, Frederick Chiluba, made efforts to liberalize the economy and privatize industry, but allegations of massive corruption characterized the latter part of his administration. By the mid-1990s, despite limited debt relief, Zambia's per capita foreign debt remained among the highest in the world.

Although poverty continues to be a significant problem in Zambia, its economy has 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 Zambia's mining sector and higher copper prices on the world market. In 2005, Zambia qualified for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, consisting of approximately U.S. $6 billion in debt relief.





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