Mwamba Luchembe was born on the 14th of February, 1960 in the Northern Province, of then Northern Rhodesia (present-day Zambia). He started his primary education at Local Education Authority School in the Northern Province where he did his grade one. He did his Grade 2 at Nseluka Primary School in Kasama District. From grade 3-7 he went to Musakanya Primary School in Mpika. He proceeded to Isoka Boys Secondary School where he did and completed his secondary education in 1978 with a Cambridge School Certificate.
During the Kaunda era, it was compulsory for school leavers to go for mandatory national service training. Upon completion of his education, Luchembe proceeded to Kasama Zambia National Service Camp where he did his compulsory National Service training. After the national service training, Luchembe went to Kohima Barracks and did his officer’s selection board where he qualified and attested in the Zambia Army on the 23rd of June, 1980. He completed his Officers Cadets training and was commissioned on the 14th of November, 1981.
He then went to Gonda Barracks in Chipata for regimentation for a period of six months. He went to Burma Barracks where he was deployed in the field of signals. After there, he went to Kaoma at Luena Barracks and continue with the training in signals for young officers and passed with very high marks and was scheduled to become an instructor in signals at the very Luena Barracks in Kaoma.
Luchembe only stayed in Kaoma for three days after the redeployment as an instructor in the field of signals before he was sent to join his colleagues who were on an operation in Eastern Province. The operation was called “Operation Hyena” which was meant to hunt down the RENAMO bandits who were harassing Zambians for food and other necessities. He left the place and proceeded to Kaoma and stayed there for a month before heading to the Mbonga training area where they trained from January to June of 1990.
On the 24th of June, 1990, news went round the barracks that food riots had broken out in Lusaka. Luchembe was among the soldiers from Kaoma who were lined up to go and quell the riots that were taking place in the capital Lusaka. Luchembe and other soldiers grew discontent about the way they saw some Zambians being treated and others being shot by the police. They hatch the plan to oust the long-serving President of the nation Kenneth Kaunda at the Officers Mess as they were imbibing some drinks.
Their main reason for discontent was that the root of the root problem was not being tackled and the problem of the economic downturn that the country was experiencing affected them as soldiers as well as being citizens of the Republic. Luchembe was the junior most in the group and coming from the signals background in the army was given the task of taking the international telephone lines, control the airports by allowing planes to land and not to take off. Then by 03:30 hours the announcement of taking over the country be made at the Mass Media Complex. Luchembe claims that he was president of the Republic of Zambia for some good three hours.
Luchembe and company were disappointed by the senior-most officer in their hatching of the plan, who was to be the one to issue step by step instructions. However, the senior-most did not pitch up after Luchembe made the announcement on the National Broadcaster that the Army had taken over the government.
On July 1, 1990, Luchembe announced in the radio studios of the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) that the Zambia Army had taken over the government and he cited riots of the previous week as reasons for his action; about 27 people had died in the riots, while more than 100 were wounded.
Although Lieutenant Luchembe’s coup attempt against President Kaunda failed, it weakened Kaunda’s political power, which was already shaky after three days of rioting. Luchembe said”I wanted to take over the government but Kaunda’s puppets are stopping me,” he said, pointing to the soldiers surrounding him. “These are Kaunda’s puppets. This was after the failed coup attempt.
To this day, Luchembe still claims that he was the second Republican President of Zambia. The paltry three hours that his group had held the nation is enough to convince Luchembe as the second Republican President of Zambia.
A personal account of Lieutenant Luchembe Mwamba from the “End of Kaunda Era” By John Mwanakatwe.