By MURPHY BROWNE (Abena Agbetu)
“Zambia will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary on October 24, 2014 enjoying 50 years of Peace, Stability and Prosperity.”
From the website of the “High Commission of the Republic of Zambia in Canada”
On Saturday October 24, 1964 Zambia became an independent country. Zambia today with a population of over 15 million is a landlocked country in Southern Africa with the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the south and Angola to the west. Between Zambia and Zimbabwe is the Zambezi River from which the country is named.
The “Mosi-oa-Tunya” meaning “The Smoke that Thunders” (Victoria Falls) is part of the Zambezi River. The Zambezi River is the fourth longest river in Africa, after the Nile, Congo and Niger Rivers. It is the longest east flowing river in Africa flowing 2,700 kilometres through six countries from its source in northwestern Zambia to the Indian Ocean. The “Mosi-oa-Tunya” Falls are considered the boundary between the upper and middle Zambezi.
The history of Zambia goes back to the beginning of humanity with evidence of human habitation in the country presented by archaeologists. Information from the “Encyclopedia of African History and Culture: Ancient Africa (Prehistory to 500 CE), vol. 1.” states that: “Archaeologists trace the origins of humanity to the Great Rift Valley, which extends to the Lower Zambezi River in southern Zambia. Artifacts unearthed at sites in Zambia suggest that early humans lived there between one and two million years ago. The most significant of these sites are at Kalambo Falls in the north and “Mosi-oa-Tunya” Falls in the south. At Kabwe, north of Lusaka (the capital city of Zambia) archaeologists have found evidence of activities by humans that dates back 100,000 years. Early Iron Age peoples settled in the region with their agriculture and domestic animals about 2,000 years ago. By 350, copper came into use both for currency and for adornment. The Bantu-speaking ancestors of the present-day Tonga people reached the region between 800 and 1000 CE. These newcomers kept cattle, made pottery and metalwork, and lived in lathe and plaster houses.”
There are several ethnic groups living together in Zambia today because of the European colonization of the continent with arbitrary assignment of borders. The main ethnic groups are Bemba, Kaonde, Lozi, Luvale, Ngoni, and the Tonga with the Bemba the largest ethnic group in the country. Present day Zambia was colonized by the British beginning in 1840 when missionaries (including David Livingstone) descended quickly followed by colonizers (including Cecil Rhodes.) The countries that are now Zambia and Zimbabwe were at the time governed by the “British South Africa Company” which was owned by Rhodes. The White colonizers/settlers who accompanied the “British South Africa Company” took the best land and became farmers. Any African who protested the stealing of their land by the White colonizers/settlers were brutalized or killed by the “British South Africa Company” police. The stolen lands were named Southern and Northern Rhodesia to honour Rhodes. Today these countries are Zimbabwe and Zambia.
In 1923 the British government took control of the territory. The administration of Northern Rhodesia was transferred to the British colonial office in 1924 as a protectorate. A legislative council was established with five members elected by the 4,000 White people while no African was consulted or had a vote.
During the 1920s and 1930s the discovery of copper saw the arrival of more Europeans in the area. By 1938 the mining of copper in the area produced 13 per cent of the world’s copper. Two large companies monopolized the industry – the South African Anglo American Corporation (AAC, North-American) and the Rhodesian Selection Trust (RST, South African) with predominantly American shareholders. Both controlled the sector until independence.
In 1953 Southern and Northern Rhodesia were combined with Nyasaland (now Malawi) to form the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Africans had resisted European colonization and after two wars (1914-1918 and 1939 to 1945) where Africans had been conscripted into fighting or at least fetching baggage and ammunition for White military personnel, White men no longer seemed invincible even with their “superior” weapons. They were just men, some brave some cowardly and they died from bayonet wounds and gunshots. Africans began armed resistance in some instances and they also were demanding a say in the governing of their countries.
In 1955 Kenneth Kaunda and Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula who were leaders in the independence struggle in Zambia were imprisoned for two months with hard labour for distributing “subversive literature.” They were both members of the African National Congress (ANC) but Kaunda broke from the ANC and formed the Zambian African National Congress (ZANC) in October 1958. The ANC was willing to negotiate with the White minority on the issue of African majority rule. The White minority were advocating that only educated Africans who owned property should be allowed to vote instead of one man/woman one vote.
Kaunda’s ZANC was banned in March 1959 by the British colonial regime. In June 1959 Kaunda was sentenced to nine months in prison. On February 3, 1960 British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan made his famous “There is a wind of change blowing through Africa” speech in South Africa. Speaking in the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town Macmillan said: “In the twentieth century, and especially since the end of the war, the processes which gave birth to the nation states of Europe have been repeated all over the world. We have seen the awakening of national consciousness in peoples who have for centuries lived in dependence upon some other power.
“Fifteen years ago this movement spread through Asia. Many countries there, of different races and civilizations, pressed their claim to an independent national life. Today, the same thing is happening in Africa, and the most striking of all the impressions I have formed since I left London a month ago is of the strength of this African national consciousness. In different places it takes different forms, but it is happening everywhere.
“The wind of change is blowing through this continent, and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must all accept it as a fact, and our national policies must take account of it.”
On December 31, 1963, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was dissolved and Northern Rhodesia became the Republic of Zambia on October 24, 1964. Kenneth Kaunda became the country’s first president.
On Friday October 24, 2014 Zambians will be celebrating 50 years of independence from British colonial rule.
Happy 50th year of independence to all Zambians as they celebrate 50 years of peace, stability and prosperity!!