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Situated in Southern Africa, the Republic of Zambia is landlocked, but borders on eight different countries. Its longest borders are with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola and Zimbabwe, but it is also bounded by Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania, with very narrow borders with Namibia and Botswana.

Shaped somewhat like a butterfly, Zambia is a large, oddly shaped country whose boundaries don't correspond to any tribal or linguistic area, but is a curious product of colonialism.

Zambia has a lot of rivers, some draining toward the Atlantic Ocean, others to the Indian Ocean. In western, southern and eastern Zambia, the Luangwa, Kafue and Zambezi rivers flow through floodplains, forests, and farmland. In the northern part of the country, the Chambesi and Luapula are both sources of the Congo River. There are several smaller rivers too, along with lakes, rapids, and waterfalls.

Its most spectacular waterfall is Victoria Falls, where the Zambezi River descends over a mile-wide cliff before crashing down a long twisting gorge. The Zambezi River flows into Lake Kariba, created by a dam, but one of the largest lakes in Africa. Lake Kariba is shared with Zimbabwe.Northern Zambia contains a portion of an even larger lake, however: Lake Tanganyika, the second deepest lake in the world, holding about one-sixth of the world's fresh water. Only the southwestern portion of the lake is in Zambia, the remainder being in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, and Tanzania.

Southern and eastern Zambia is characterized by deep valleys, the largest of which is the Zambezi Valley, which also defines the country's southern border.

Zambia is home to several parks and conservation areas. The Kafue National Park sees Africa's second=largest migration of wildebeest. Others include Isangano National Park, Kasanka National Park, Lavushi Manda National Park, Liuwa Plain National Park, Lower Zambezi National Park, Luambe National Park, Lukusuzi National Park, Lusenga Plain National Park, Mweru Wantipa National Park, North Luangwa National Park, Siome Ngweze National Park, South Luangwa National Park, Sumbu National Park, and West Lunga National Park.

Of the ethnic groups still inhabiting Zambia, the first to arrive were the Tonga and the Ila, who are sometimes combined as Tonga-Ila. They came from the Congo in the late 1400s and were settled into the Zambezi Valley and plateau areas north of Lake Kariba by 1550, and that remains their homeland today. The Chewa came in the 1500s or before, and founded a kingdom that covered most of eastern Zambia and parts of Malawi and Mozambique. The Chewa are the largest ethnic group in Zambia today. The Bemba came into northern Zambia around 1700. Around the same time, the Lamba settled the area of the Copperbelt and the Lala settled the region around Serenje. The Lozi created a dynasty in western Zambia, forming a political entity that remains strong today.

In the early 1800s, the slave trade intensified as Swahili-Arabs advanced into the interior of the continent for the purpose of capturing slaves who were sold in the Zanzibar slave markets.

Europeans first made contact in the late 1700s when the Portuguese explorer, Francisco de Lacerda, sought to cross the continent from coast to coast for the first time but died during the expedition in 1798. Portugal claimed the region. Other Europeans followed, including David Livingstone, who was the first European to see Victoria Falls, naming it for Queen Victoria. On a later trip, Livingstone died while searching for the source of the Nile in northern Zambia.

In 1885, Europe split the continent, with Britain claiming what was then known as Rhodesia, but included modern-day Zambia and Zimbabwe. They became the British territories of Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia.

In 1953, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was created, combining Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and Nyasaland (Malawi). This did not work out, and the three regions split in the early 1960s, Northern Rhodesia becoming the Republic of Zambia in 1964.

Zambia's first president, Kenneth Kaunda, disbanded opposition parties in 1972, and remained in power for twenty-seven years, forming a government that was a mixture of Marxism and traditional African values. Within a few years, Zambia had become one of the poorest countries in the world, and its relations with neighboring countries were poor. By the 1990s, Kaunda was forced to legalize opposition parties and hold a presidential election. He was soundly defeated in 1991. Subsequent years have been characterized by corruption, rigged elections, and assassinations.

Zambia is made up of seventy-three ethnic groups, most of which are Bantu-speaking. It is officially a Christian nation, but traditional African religions are strong, often blending with Christianity.


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