Foreign policy and defense
Zambia has been forced to live close to the
problems that have shaken neighboring countries in
politically troubled southern Africa. At the same time,
as a coastal country, it has been vital to keep roads
and other communications with the outside world open.
Zambia is part of all the cooperative bodies operating
in the region.
Because of its dependence on neighboring countries'
communication paths towards the seas, Zambia's position
on the black freedom struggle in countries such as
Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia became complicated.
President Kenneth Kaunda, himself early involved in the
fight against colonialism and apartheid, supported
liberation movements such as Swapo in Namibia, ANC in
South Africa, Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe and Frelimo in
Mozambique. Kaunda met with apartheid leaders in an
attempt to mediate and also arranged meetings between
South African businessmen and the ANC's exiled
leadership. The ANC had its headquarters in Lusaka.
Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Zambia for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
As democratization in South Africa gained momentum in
1990, the tension diminished and the ANC moved its
headquarters to its homeland. Following President
Frederick Chiluba's 1991 entry, Zambia established
diplomatic relations with South Africa, and since then
contacts with South Africa have deepened. The countries
cooperated, among other things, on the peace process in
the Congo-Kinshasa in the late 1990s (see below).
Relations with Angola have at times been strained. In
the early 1990s, Angolan guerrilla Unita invaded Zambia
because of the Zambian regime's support for the Angolan
government. Later, Zambia was accused by the Angolan
government of supplying the guerrillas with weapons and
oil. Tensions between the countries increased in 1999
when Lusaka was shaken by a series of bomb explosions.
No one took the blame for the attacks, but the Angolan
government is suspected of being behind. The peace
agreement between the Angolan government and Unita in
2002 led to a significant improvement in Zambia's
relations with Angola. Following the change of
government in Zambia in 2011 (see Current Policy), the
new government sent President Kaunda to Angola to
apologize for Zambia's support to Unita.
Zambia remained neutral in the war in Congo-Kinshasa
and in 1999 hosted the conference which culminated in
the Lusaka Agreement, a peace agreement between the
warring parties in the neighboring country. Yet Zambia
was being drawn into the ongoing war, when fighting near
the Zambian border at the end of 2000, thousands of
Congolese and Zimbabwean soldiers drifted into Zambian
soil away from a rebel offensive.
Zambia was a founding member of the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) to promote trade and
cooperation within the region. Zambia is also a member
of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa),
which aims to create a customs union between the member
states. Zambia is included as one of 77 developing
countries in the so-called Cotonou Agreement, which is a
trade and aid agreement between the EU and countries in
Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.
During the Zimbabwe domestic political crisis in the
early 2000s, then-Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa was
one of the very few African heads of state who openly
criticized Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and tried
to pressure him to implement political reforms. Rupiah
Banda, who succeeded Mwanawasa in 2008, was initially
accused of being too soft on Mugabe, but he later made
sharp statements against his colleague in Zimbabwe.
Zambia's relationship with the major powers of the
United States, Russia and China is good.
With the United States, close cooperation is underway
to stop the spread of the HIV virus and to fight
China's influence in the country is growing and China
is now the country that invests most in Zambia. The main
focus of Chinese interest is on trade and extraction of
raw materials. China has made significant investments in
the important mining sector in Zambia and Chinese
companies today belong to the larger private sector
employers. Many public contracts go to Chinese
companies. Roads, airports, factories and police
stations with Chinese capital are being built all over
the country. As a result, Zambia's debt to China is
growing, which has given rise to domestic criticism.
Chinese employers' treatment of employees has also
Relations with Russia have improved in recent years,
and the countries have initiated several educational
collaborations. Among other things, Zambian police go to
Moscow to be trained in counter-terrorism.
Zambia's defense is small in regional comparison. The
country has contributed peacekeeping troops to a number
of UN operations, for example in Rwanda (1994–1995),
Ethiopia / Eritrea and Sierra Leone.
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Zambia may pay dearly for Chinese investment
FACTS - DEFENSE
13,500 men (2017)
The air Force
1 600 men (2017)
Military expenditure's share of GDP
1.3 percent (2017)
Military spending's share of the state budget
5.2 percent (2017)
Banda wins the election
Vice President Banda wins the general election for the presidential post. He
gets just over 40 percent of the vote, against about 38 percent for Michael Sata
(PF) and 20 percent for Hakainde Hichilema (UDA). The turnout is around 45
percent. Sata protests against the election exit and appeals to the Supreme
Court to have the votes recalculated.
The President dies
President Mwanawasa dies.
The president suffers another stroke
President Mwanawasa gets a new stroke. Acting President becomes Vice
President Rupiah Banda from MMD.
500 are dismissed after vandalization
A major conflict erupts at a Chinese-owned mining company where Zambian
employees protest against poor working conditions. After a strike that resulted
in vandalizing the company's property, 500 Zambians are dismissed. Most are