What is the history of Zambia's path to independence?

Zambia's path to independence started off in the 1930s with opposition to British proposals to unite what was then Northern Rhodesia with Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Over decades, opposition to federation grew stronger, and although a federation was eventually established, a growing resistance movement ensured that it was just a matter of time before independence was achieved, which it was when the former colony of Northern Rhodesia became the independent state of Zambia in 1964.

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What is modern-day Zambia was originally Northern Rhodesia, one of many British colonies in Southern Africa. For many years, Northern Rhodesia had been administered by the British South African Company, but in 1923, control of the colony passed to the British Colonial Office in Whitehall.

During the following decade, the...

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What is modern-day Zambia was originally Northern Rhodesia, one of many British colonies in Southern Africa. For many years, Northern Rhodesia had been administered by the British South African Company, but in 1923, control of the colony passed to the British Colonial Office in Whitehall.

During the following decade, the British made proposals to join Northern Rhodesia with two other colonies in the area, Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, as part of a federation. Public opinion in Northern Rhodesia was strongly opposed to these proposals. Many feared the loss of land, as well as the prospect of being yoked together with less well-off colonies.

Over the course of the next two decades, opposition to federation grew, with many public figures in Northern Rhodesia, such as tribal elders, publicly condemning what was still, after all this time, a stated aim of Britain's Africa policy.

Various opponents of federation came together to form the Northern Rhodesia African National Congress (NRANC), which would become the main political force behind moves towards independence. Despite the best efforts of the NRANC, however, the British were finally able to bring about federation in 1953.

Initially, support for the NRANC dropped, but in due course, more and more Northern Rhodesians would flock to their cause, the cause of independence. This was largely due to a change of leadership at the top of the NRANC, which placed power in the hands of a cadre of relatively young, energetic radicals determined to do whatever was necessary to achieve independence.

The authorities responded by jailing the new leadership of the Congress. But this only served to antagonize the situation and increase support for the organization. Before long, resistance had become violent, with riots and looting becoming the order of the day on the streets of Northern Rhodesia.

In the midst of this chaos, one of the NRANC's imprisoned leaders, Kenneth Kaunda, formed the United National Independence Party (UNIP), which mounted a campaign of civil disobedience against colonial rule.

In response to growing disorder, the Colonial Office revised the constitution of Northern Rhodesia to allow UNIP to take part in planned elections. At those elections, in 1962, UNIP and the NRANC achieved an overall majority of both votes and seats in the new legislature. The hated federation, which had provided the main impetus for the independence struggle, was dissolved a year later.

A year after that, another election gave UNIP a decisive majority, and a few months later, Northern Rhodesia finally became the independent state of Zambia, with Kenneth Kaunda as prime minister, a position he was to hold until 1991.

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