United National Independence Party

The United National Independence Party (UNIP) is a political party in Zambia. It governed the country from 1964 to 1991 under the socialist presidency of Kenneth Kaunda, and which was the sole legal party between 1973 and 1990.

United National
Independence Party
LeaderTilyenji Kaunda
FounderMainza Chona
FoundedOctober 1959 (October 1959)
HeadquartersLusaka, Zambia
IdeologyAfrican socialism
African nationalism
Political positionLeft-wing
National Assembly
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Pan African Parliament
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Party flag
Unip Zambia Flag.png
Demonstrations by the United National Independence Party (UNIP) during the visit of Iain Macleod (1960)


UNIP was founded in October 1959 by Mainza Chona as a successor of the Zambian African National Congress (ZANC), banned earlier that year. UNIP was initially led Chona as the ZANC leader, Kaunda, had been imprisoned. Kaunda later assumed power as leader of UNIP after he was released from prison in 1960.

In the general elections, UNIP won 14 seats, in second position, the first being taken by United Federal Party(UFP). Although Northern Rhodesian African National Congress leader Harry Nkumbula had made a secret electoral pact with the UFP, he later opted to form a government with UNIP. After a convincing victory in the Northern Rhodesian general elections in 1964, when UNIP won 55 of the 75 seats, Kaunda became Prime Minister of Northern Rhodesia, leading the country to independence on 24 October 1964, when he became President.

In the 1968 general elections Kaunda was re-elected president with 82% of the vote, and UNIP won 81 of the 105 elected seats in the National Assembly.[1]

In 1973 the country became a one-party state with UNIP as the sole legal party, with an amended constitution being promulgated on 25 August 1973.[2] The general election that year described as the final steps in achieving what was called a "one-party participatory democracy." National policy was formulated by the Central Committee of UNIP. According to the constitution, UNIP's president was selected at the party's general conference, and the second-ranking person in the Zambian hierarchy was UNIP's secretary general. The constitution also stipulated that UNIP's president was the sole candidate for president of the republic; he was confirmed in office every five years via a yes/no referendum. Voters chose between multiple UNIP candidates for the 125 parliamentary seats, with three candidates running in each constituency. Kaunda was confirmed as president with 89% of the vote.[1] Elections were held under the same system in 1978, 1983 and 1988, with Kaunda receiving at least 80% of the vote each time.

At the end of 1990 multi-party democracy was reintroduced, and UNIP was roundly defeated in the 1991 general elections by the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD); Kaunda was defeated in the presidential vote by MMD candidate Frederick Chiluba, receiving just 24% of the vote, whilst in the National Assembly elections UNIP won 25 seats to the MMD's 125.[1]

Following changes to the constitution which effectively barred Kaunda from running for president again, UNIP boycotted the 1996 elections, although two members contested National Assembly seats. The party returned to contest the 2001 elections with Kenneth Kaunda's son, Tilyenji, as its presidential candidate; he received 10% of the vote, finishing fourth out of the eleven candidates. In the National Assembly elections the party won 13 seats.[1]

Prior to the 2006 elections the party joined the United Democratic Alliance alongside the other two largest opposition parties. United Party for National Development leader Hakainde Hichilema was the alliance's presidential candidate, finishing third. The alliance won just 26 seats in the National Assembly, down from the 74 the three parties had won in 2001.

UNIP did not contest the 2008 presidential by-election, but nominated Tilyenji Kaunda as its presidential candidate for the 2011 elections. Kaunda received less than 1% of the vote, finishing sixth in a field of ten candidates. The party also failed to win a seat in the National Assembly, receiving only 0.7% of the vote.[1] Kaunda ran in the 2015 presidential by-election, but again received less than 1% of the vote. Tilyenji Kaunda remained the party's presidential candidate for the 2016 general elections, but he received only 0.24% of the vote, with the party again failing to win a seat in the National Assembly.

Electoral historyEdit

Presidential electionsEdit

Election Party candidate Votes % Result
1968 Kenneth Kaunda 1,079,970 81.8% Elected  Y
1973 581,245 88.8% Elected  Y
1978 1,026,127 80.7% Elected  Y
1983 1,453,029 95.4% Elected  Y
1988 1,414,000 95.5% Elected  Y
1991 311,022 24.24% Lost  N
2001 Tilyenji Kaunda 175,898 10.12% Lost  N
2006 Supported Hakainde Hichilema (UDA) 693,772 25.32% Lost  N
2011 Tilyenji Kaunda 9,950 0.36% Lost  N
2015 9,737 0.58% Lost  N
2016 8,928 0.24% Lost  N

National Assembly electionsEdit

Election Party leader Votes % Seats +/– Position Government
1962 Kenneth Kaunda Upper roll 4,519 14.79%
14 / 45
  14   2nd Opposition
Lower roll 59,648 78.16%
1964 Main roll 570,612 69.1%
55 / 75
  41   1st Supermajority government
Reserved roll 6,177 35.2%
1968 657,764 73.2%
81 / 110
  26   1st Supermajority government
1973 527,252 100%
125 / 136
  44   1st Sole legal party
1978 100%
125 / 136
    1st Sole legal party
1983 100%
125 / 136
    1st Sole legal party
1988 100%
125 / 136
    1st Sole legal party
1991 314,711 24.99%
25 / 159
  100   2nd Opposition
1996 Tilyenji Kaunda 477 0.04%
0 / 159
  25   9th Extra-parliamentary
2001 185,535 10.59%
13 / 159
  13   4th Opposition
2006 610,608

as part of UDA

26 / 159
  13   3rd Opposition
2011 18,446 0.68%
0 / 159
  26   6th Extra-parliamentary
2016 7,253 0.20%
0 / 156
    9th Extra-parliamentary


  1. ^ a b c d e Elections in Zambia African Elections Database
  2. ^ The Law and Economic Development in the Third World, P. Ebow Bondzi-Simpson Praeger, 1992, page 25

External linksEdit

  Media related to United National Independence Party at Wikimedia Commons