Zambia at 49, starts in earnest celebrating the 50 years Independence Jubilee. But the country's first President Kenneth Kaunda seems to be stealing all the attention of being the author of political peace and unity the Southern African nation has enjoyed over years while others who played party are forgotten and hardly mentioned
|Kenneth Kaunda with colleagues negotiating Independence at Lancaster House|
By Nyalubinge Ngwende
Zambia celebrates 49 years of Independence, still adorned in the laurels of being an African and world icon of relative political peace and stability.
It is a country that is a mosaic of 72 tribal groups which in any circumstance could be a sign of fragility that could spell tribal unrests and political instability.
However, for the 49 years that the country has enjoyed self rule it has not just managed to maintain relative cohesion among the 72 tribes, but also inculcated a culture of nationhood to a large extent where all these tribes have confidence in the governance system.
But during such celebrations, the country’s politicians tend to personalise the period of the Independence event. Those in government want to monopolise the event as though they are better placed to understand its essence. Others in the opposition seem to challenge any sense that makes this day to be of any essence and worth celebrating in the face of economic problems. That is politics and the country has learnt to live with the parallels.
That aside, the most annoying is how all other freedom fighters, simple husbands and wives, sons and daughters, who put their lives in the line of danger so that we can enjoy the things we do today, are forgotten. Instead the focus of government leaders is turned at the extolling one person, Kenneth Kaunda, who is made to appear as though he is the sole author of Zambia’s Independence as well as the peace and unity the country continues to enjoy.
This is wrong and it should not be accepted.
When greater nations divided the continent to perpetuate their imperialists’ interests, some selfish citizens in most African countries collaborated: embraced mercenaries to pursue tribal interests over nationhood. They even endorsed racism, to secure profits and markets for export of their raw materials and imports of finished goods.
But our fore bearers chose to be different. They chose to build an independent and united country. They also stood against imperialism in several neighbouring countries; they braved trade sanctions and isolation, sacrificed their limited resources and fly overnight military plane attacks. That was done to defend the rights of our country and those of our African brothers and sisters whose nations were not independent, so that one day their lands, too, could be free and realise self rule.
Because we are unique, we extended our love to Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, South Africa and Angola. Our leaders did not just see Africa’s freedom within this country, but across boundaries. It was the belief of our political leaders that this great country could only be free and enjoy political stability if its neighbours and the whole of Africa and its people were liberated from all forms of subjugation—be it political, racial, economical and social.
As other nations continue to quarrel within themselves, their national leadership still warring about which tribe must rule, trying to stingy other groups over control of national wealth, washing their countries in bloodbaths and perpetuating heinous crimes against children and women, causing displacements of hundreds of thousands of their people within and across their national borders, Zambia has remained a bastion of political peace and stability. It has taken in over a quarter a million of refugees since the 1960s.
Our country has stood united. To bind together 72 different tribes into one nation is no mean achievement. We do not need accolades! The world must learn our spirit and transplant what makes us a better Zambia to other nations where even the interventions of think tanks on international relations, peace and stability continue to elude those countries.
This did not come about by sheer lucky. After Independence the divided interests were quickly tamed, harmonized to enrich the country’s national aspirations. The political art or formula that was used might remain unwritten or unsung and to the jealousy, unpopular. But two words: NATIONAL INTEREST—remains the spirit of courage that pacified what would have permanently divided us.
|Mwansa Kapwepwe as foreign minister in 1966|
A lot of authors and political cheer leaders may try and write individual liberation struggle leaders as icons of forging the culture of NATIONAL INTEREST. It is only those who seek to disregard the spirit of team work who could think national interest can be authored by one mind and one hand. Only those who seek to extol individuals as idols will attempt to deceive those who were not there. Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, among others, played equally an important role in giving Zambia the gift of peace and unity.
In Zambian wisdom, it is clearly understood that ‘one finger cannot pick and crush louse’. National Interest is a shared virtue that comes about by political leaders realizing that their personal desires are smaller than those of the multitudes of the people they stand for. Without that virtue being shared across interests anyone from any single tribe was going to derail what Zambia holds as its internationally recognised symbol—peace and unity.
This is the standard courage and sacrifice forming the spirit passed to this generation and those to come; gifted by God as an inheritance with which children of our children shall embrace with or without the motto: One Zambia, One Nation.