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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Chronology for Bemba in Zambia

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Date(s) Item
1701 - 1750 Portuguese traders opened southern and central Zambia directly to export copper, ivory and gold.
1801 - 1850 Slavery surpassed ivory and gold as the main export from the lower Zambezi region.
1801 - 1900 The Bemba in the North capitalized on new Arab trade in the region by exchanging slaves and ivory for guns. They entered a new era of territorial aggrandizement in a series of wars. The Lozi in the West had become that region's most powerful kingdom, but it is plunged into a period of civil war until 1885.
1890 The Lozi king Lewanika signed a mineral concession and protectorate treaty with the British South Africa Company. The agreement deprived the Lozi of its independence and resources while conferring special privileges under the British. Barotseland maintained a certain amount of autonomy until the independence of Zambia.
1895 The British South Africa Company assumed control of Zambia. It was designated Northern Rhodesia in 1897. It had little prospect for profitable investment, and chiefly provided labor for mines elsewhere. Chiefly among the Tonga of the southern province were African agriculturalists able to participate in commercial farming.
1899 The Bemba and Lunda kingdoms submitted to the Company's authority.
1900 - 1950 White settlers and the Company disagreed over amalgamating the two Rhodesias and the settlers agitated for a greater voice in government.
1921 - 1930 The British government implemented indirect rule for the African population. The doctrine was based on the assumption that the African population could be governed and reformed by a benevolent colonial government working with "traditional" authority structures. Chiefs were incorporated into the colonial administration, and where no chiefs existed, they were appointed.
1924 Northern Rhodesia became a protectorate under the British Colonial Office. A legislative council was created under which Africans could not participate.
1931 - 1940 Large-scale exploitation of the region known as the copperbelt in Northern Zambia was firmly established. The copper boom pushed the number of African wage earners to nearly 33,000 by the 1940s with thousands more employed along the rail routes servicing the mines. The territory continued to export labor on a large scale. Neither the mining companies, railroad nor colonial government provided adequate facilities and services for the laborers. Education was left to missionary schools which offered only primary education.
1935 Workers staged their first strike in the copperbelt. The government responded by expanding and consolidating the so-called tribal elements of urban administration. African political movements began to emerge at this time.
1944 African regional provincial councils were established with mixed membership representing urban councils, Native Authorities,and welfare societies.
1946 Delegates from the provincial councils began attending the territory-wide African Representative Council which met annually until 1958. Though powerless, it became an effective organ for the expression of African protest against discrimination.
1948 Unions were established in all four mines, and in 1949, they merged into the Northern Rhodesian African Mineworkers' Union. It became a major force in the nationalist struggle that led to independence.
1951 The Northern Rhodesian Congress renamed itself the Zambian African National Congress, and continued to oppose amalgamation proposals by white settlers to join with Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (Malawi). Its leader was Harry Nkumbula.
1953 Northern Rhodesia became part of the Central African Federation (CAF) with Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Africans gained no economic or political advantages from the federation.
1958 The ZANC split when a group of young radicals led by Kenneth Kaunda demanded the dissolution of the CAF and the independence of Northern Rhodesia under the name Zambia. The ZANC was banned in 1959 and Kaunda was imprisoned. Following his release, Kaunda formed the United National Independence Party (UNIP).
1961 - 1970 The independence constitution provided for a unitary state with a strong chief executive, and a cabinet selected from, but not responsible to the National Assembly. Regionalism remained a powerful political force with Lozi, Nyanja, Bemba, and Tonga becoming the main languages spoken in their respective regions. The Bemba dominated the mining region, and UNIP became known as a Bemba party. The ZANC drew its support from the more rural south and became known as a Tonga party. The ZANC never posed a real threat to UNIP's hold on the government, but its hold on the south belied the government's claim as a national party.
1962 The British, under pressure following a massive campaign of civil disobedience, introduced a new constitution which would create an African majority in the legislature.
1963 CAF is formally dissolved.
Jan 1964 Elections are held based on universal adult suffrage in preparation for independence. UNIP won 55 of the 75 seats in the legislature and Kaunda became Prime Minister for the first predominately African cabinet.
Apr 1964 The Lozi leader agreed to renounce the special treaty relationship it enjoyed with the British Crown and accepted integration into the new state of Zambia. Lozi overwhelmingly supported UNIP in the January elections because they believe it will grant them autonomy for Barotseland.
Oct 24, 1964 Zambia was granted independence. The British South Africa Company gave up its rights to the new government with compensation from Britain and Zambia.
1966 Two Lozi members of parliament, one ANC and one UNIP, formed the opposition United Party (UP) which gained popular support in the West. In the following year, both candidates were defeated in by-elections which were accompanied by violence and intimidation.
Aug 1967 UNIP suffered an internal crisis at its general conference when Bemba teamed up with Tonga to unseat Nyanja and Lozi officers. It opened an era of frequent reshuffling of the Cabinet, as Kaunda sought to stem rivalries and balance ethnic representation.
Dec 1968 Elections take place for the first time since independence. The ANC gained 23 seats to UNIP's 81 seats. ANC won Barotse Province (Western Province) while maintaining its traditional control of the south. UNIP maintained its dominance in the north and continued to seek a one-party state. The elections also marked the end of the ten seats reserved for the European National Progress Party.
1973 After dissention within his party, Kaunda, under a new constitution, officially established a one-party state. Kaunda gained a third term as president in elections in December, though only 36% of registered voters went to the polls.
1974 - 1976 International copper prices decline, as does Zambia's revenues. There was widespread discontent resulting from high food prices, import restrictions, and increasing unemployment.
Jan 1976 Kaunda declared a state of emergency.
1978 Kaunda returned for a fourth term as president after winning the election in which he was the sole candidate. Simon Kapwapwe, a notable Bemba leader, returned to UNIP. His support was seen as vital to Kaunda in a time of acute political and economic instability.
Oct 1980 Several prominent businessmen, government officials, and UNIP members allegedly staged a coup attempt. Kaunda subsequently arrested many ethnic Bemba.
Jan 1 - Jul 31, 1981 Suspension from UNIP of 17 officials of the Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ) and the Zambian Congress of Trade Unions (ZTCU) prompted widespread strikes and riots. Further strikes and protests occur in response to the continuing poor economic situation in the country.
Mar 1985 Kaunda banned strikes in essential services following strikes amongst public-sector employees demanding higher wages.
Dec 1985 Angry demonstrations in Lusaka result from an imposition of further austerity measures.
Jan 1987 Riots in the copperbelt were reported. There was widespread discontent resulting from high food prices, import restrictions, and increasing unemployment.
Apr 1987 Kuanda alleged that the South African government, Zambian businessmen and members of the armed forces conspired to destabilize the state. Several arrests were made over the next months in response to these an other attempts to overthrow Kaunda.
1988 Kaunda coopted a number of traditional rulers including the Lozi paramount chief into the Central Committee of his UNIP party.
Dec 1988 There are increased incidents of smuggling, robbery and shootings on the Zaire-Zambia border in the region dominated by Bemba-speakers, They straddle the Zaire-Zambia border.
1989 Continued unrest among workers and students was reported in the early months. In July, rioting in the Copperbelt took place in response to increased prices on essential goods.
Jun 1990 Severe rioting in Lusaka in response to the increase of maize prices by more than 100% resulted in 30 deaths.
Jul 1990 The Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), an unofficial alliance of political opponents to the government was formed under the leadership of Frederick Chiluba of the ZCTU.
Jul 6, 1990 A member of the Bemba royal house attempted a coup against Kaunda's government. The Bemba chief denounced the coup, easing fears that it was a Bemba plot. The incident followed five days of bloody unrest sparked by the doubling of the price of maize meal which is a staple food of Zambia.
Sep 1990 The national council of UNIP endorsed proposals for multiparty elections scheduled for October 1991.
Dec 1990 Kaunda formally adopted constitutional amendments which permitted the formation of political parties to contest the upcoming elections. Eleven opposition movements, in addition to MMD, were established in the following months.
Aug 1991 The National Assembly formally adopted a new draft constitution. Kaunda also agreed to allow foreign observers to oversee the upcoming elections.
Sep 1991 The National Assembly is dissolved in anticipation of elections scheduled for 31 October.
Oct 1991 Numerous outbreaks of violence are reported in which some people are killed. Multiparty elections took place 31 October, and Chiluba defeated Kaunda with 75.8% of the vote. The MMD secured 125 seats in the National Assembly to UNIP's 25. During the following months, Chiluba began to carry out major restructuring of the civil service and parastatal organizations.
1992 Widespread opposition to government policies was reported. In May, a dissident faction of the MMD emerged as the Caucus for National Unity. They demanded that Chiluba reorganize his cabinet to represent all ethnic groups. The government's strict adherence to a structural adjustment program resulted in increased economic hardship for many.
Mar 1993 Chiluba declared a state of emergency following the discovery of UNIP documents detailing a conspiracy to destabilize the government. The state of emergency ended in late May.
Jul 1993 Fifteen members of MMD, 11 of whom had seats in the Assembly, resigned from the party accusing the government of protecting corrupt cabinet members and failing to respond to accusations linking party officials with the drugs trade.
Jun 1994 Seven opposition parties, including UNIP, joined together to form the Zambian Opposition Front (ZOFRO). In July, Vice-President July Levy Mwanawasa announced his resignation citing long-standing differences with Chiluba. The emergence of ethnic based pressure groups is seen as result of perceptions that the Bemba dominate politics in the country.
Jun 1995 UNIP changes its leadership with Kaunda coming out of retirement to return as president.
Dec 1996 Claims mounted over poll rigging in the November elections. The Electoral Commission released evidence suggesting that the polls may have been fixed before polling day. There were instances of inexplicable uniformity in election results in many constituencies. President Chiluba’s newly appointed Cabinet was labeled tribalist as 22 of 25 Ministers are from the Bemba-speaking Northern and Luapula provinces. (Africa News Service (ANS), 12/6/1996)
Sep 1998 Ethnic conflict was reported in the northwest on the border with Angola. Violence began August 27th between the Lunda and Luvale people. Independent MP MacDonald Nkabika blamed the government for ignoring the Luvale people and appointing only Lunda to top local government positions. He added that former president Kaunda did a better job of distributing political appointments among ethnic groups. (Inter Press Service (IPS), 9/8/1998). Dr. Kabanje, addressing the 6th NGO Coordinating Committee’s general assembly asserted that the ruling MMD party was promoting Bemba into a dominant and hegemonic language in disregard of other tribal languages. (ANS, 9/15/1998)
Dec 1998 In local government elections, the ruling MMD (Movement for Multiparty Democracy) won 491 of 786 seats, more than 70% of those available. UNIP (United National Independence Party) won 104 while the newly launched UPND (United Party for National Development) won 21 in the northwest six days after its formation. The ZDC (Zambian Democratic Congress), NP (National Party), and NCC (National Citizen’s Coalition, formerly National Christian Coalition) did poorly, as did the AZ (Agenda Zambia) in Western Province, a hotbed of secessionist aspirations among the Lozi. (ANS, 1/4/1999)
Aug 1999 Opposition UNPD Vice-President John Mulwila said the people of Barotseland had a genuine complaint that the 1964 Barotseland Agreement had not been fulfilled. He advised the MMD government to negotiate the contents of the Agreement to avoid sending the country into civil strife. (ANS, 8/20/1999) The Bemba paramount chief Mutale Chitapankwa II called on other African countries to emulate the Zambian traditional culture that fosters unity among various tribes. (ANS, 8/24/1999)
Sep 1999 Barotse Patriotic Front leader Mutangelwa was charged with belonging to an unregistered organization. He pleaded not guilty and was released on bail. (ANS, 9/2/1999)
2004 Former President Chiluba and other members of his government were arrested on corruption charges. (Agence France Presse, 01/20/2004, "Former Zambian intelligence chief arrested for theft"; Agence France Presse, 03/11/2004, "Top government official arrested for corruption in Zambia")
Jul 2005 Michael Sata faced charges of espionage and sedition for inciting miners in the Copperbelt region to strike and riot. Six miners were shot in the rioting. (Sarah Adler. 2005. “World Press Freedom Review: Zambia.” International Press Institute; The Independent Online, 7/20/2005, “Workers riot at copper mine in Zambia”)
Oct 2, 2006 Police clashed with “stone-throwing protesters” from the Patriotic Front Party (a largely Bemba party). (BBC News. 10/2/2006. “Violence as Zambia awaits results.”)


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Information current as of July 16, 2010