Kenneth Kaunda - The First Zambian President Who Ruled For 27 Years

Kenneth Kaunda was the first Zambian president when Northern Rhodesia, (now Zambia) was granted independence in October 1964 after federation was dissolved in 1963. He continued to rule for the next 27 years, up to 1991.

Kenneth David Kaunda, also known as KK was born on 28 April 1924.

Kenneth Kaunda – First Zambian PresidentKenneth David Kaunda – First Zambian President

One - Party Participatory Democracy

In 1972 all political parties, except UNIP were banned. The system was dubbed as a “one- party participatory democracy”, hence the introduction of one party state in 1973. The policy for the nation was executed by the Central Committee of that time.

An Ambitious Program For Kenneth Kaunda

Due to the Vietnam War and after independence, prices of copper rose very high and this was a bonus for the country!

Since there were no trained and educated Zambians, Kenneth Kaunda embarked on an ambitious program. Education and health were given priority. He built roads and railways to black ruled nations. In 1975 with the help of the Chinese people a railway, (TAZARA) was built connecting Zambia with Dar-es-Salaam, in Tanzania.

Another project undertaken was building a petroleum pipe line from Ndola to Dar-es-Salaam. This was completed in 1968.


Kaunda adopted an ideology of African socialism. He practiced national planning and nationalization.

Many privately owned companies were nationalized, including the mines in 1969. Jobs were now available for many trained Zambians. However, because of inefficiency and corruption, nationalization did not bring any favourable results.

Starting in 1975 there was a slump in world copper prices. For a country which was 80% dependent on exports of copper, this was a devastating blow to the Zambian economy!

To counter this, Zambia got big loans from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Liberation Struggle

Kenneth David Kaunda waged a liberation struggle in the southern region of Africa. He gave moral and physical support to the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) in Rhodesia which was being ruled by Ian Smith, the South-West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) in Namibia and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) in Mozambique.

It was tough for Zambia: South Africa even launched raids into Zambia against African National Congress camps. All these, coupled with economic sanctions against Rhodesia, had a telling effect on the economy.

Multiparty Democracy

However, the above initiatives only brought about food shortages and high unemployment. Finally in 1991, people could not contend with the rising economic problems any longer. Food riots were experienced, resulting in 30 people being killed. There was also an attempted coup d’état.

The government arrested union leaders, among them Fredrick Chiluba. Due to mounting domestic pressure, Kaunda was forced to introduce multiparty democracy.

On 31st October 1991 elections were held. Kaunda was defeated by 80% to 20% by the Movement for the Multi-party Democracy (MMD), thus ending his 27 years rule in Zambia.

He was replaced by Zambia’s second president Fredrick Chiluba from the trade union.

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