By Samuel Ngoma
A human spark. We have been one nation all along, whose unity has been extraordinarily rewarding. As far as national unity goes, we outpunch our weight even against the world’s most stable democracies.
For those of us who were privileged to serve in Foreign Service, Zambia’s national unity, peace and stability, was our Unique Selling Proposition (USP), as far as public diplomacy goes.
We are blessed with a burgeoning creative reputation worldwide, which includes professionals from Western Province or what is now being treacherously called Barotseland.
We have, among Zambia’s most famous sons and daughters, both the quick and the dead, Lozis who have done the country proud. It is a dazzling list of founding fathers, dignitaries, politicians, diplomats, Academicians, Lawyers, Clerics, celebrities, outstanding civil servants, close friends, brethren and journalists.
Mwanawina, Goodwin Mbikusita-Lewanika, Nalumino Mundia, Princess Nakatindi (Senior and Junior), Munukayumbwa Sipalo, Sikota Wina, Arthur Wina, Daniel Lisulo, The Litungas themselves, Malimba Masheke, Amusaa Mwanamwambwa, Mundia Sikatana, Inonge Wina, Charles Milupi, Given Lubinda, Akashambatwa Mbikusita-Lewanika, Silumelume K. Mubukwanu, Professor Sitwala Imenda, Professor Mwauluka, Dr. Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika, Keli Walubita, George Simasiku, Patricia Nawa, Bishop Joe Imakando, Dr. Esther Munalula, Rose Mbololwa Mbikusita-Lewanika, Christopher Mundia, Chris Sitwala, Yuyi Lishomwa, Simataa Simataa, Rikki Illilonga,Ngozi Mwanamwambwa, Dennis Lota, Jonathan Lichilana (late author of the Zambia National Anthem), Kwale Ikafa(late great dramatist and electrical engineer), Meebelo Mutukwa, Tony Mbanga and Poni Muyambango(late great soccer star).
Fellow Journalists: Ridgeway Liwena, John Mukela, Ken Mubu, Julian Mutakela, Jeff Sitali, Mary Namakando, Moses Walubita ,Anthony Mukwita, Doreen Inonge Mukanzo, Namakau Jyatileka, Judith Konayuma, Gethsemane Muzabi, Hilda Akekelwa, Desmond Mubiana, Martin Wamunyima, Victor Zaza, Pelekelo Liswaniso, Mutafela Lubinda, Lubinda Mabuku, Robert Sifuniso, Obi Munalula, Ing’utu Muyambango, to name a few.
How, now, can some of us be expected to part nationality with warm, hospitable, Lozi friends and brethren who have left such a niche in our hearts, they that opened their homes, they that were there for us when we were still veiled to the rest of the world?
Emmanuel Mainza Milapo, Molly Milapo, Richard Saloba Milapo, Sepiso Katundu, Jack Kufanga Kanyanga, Lizzie Sishwashwa, Peggy Liswani, Kennedy Mubita, Mary Walubita and the list is endless.
These antecedent bonds no one can nullify just when the “Musisi” is becoming a national dress for Zambian women!
There was never any doubt about our oneness as a nation. Together, we have experienced highs and lows as one nation. Every year, as one people, we have ceaselessly joined our Lozi brothers and sisters in crawling the gauntlet along Mongu road during the stupendous Kuomboka ceremony.
Why now would our own flesh and blood, our brethren, some of the Lozis in Western Province, seek separatism from mother Zambia, the one nation we dearly love and cherish and sing Chipolopolo together? Why now?
Now, when we are so inseparable, it is impossible to imagine a Loziless Zambia unless one has taken leave of his senses. It is unfathomable to put asunder this one flesh of Lozis and all Zambia. We are inseparable whether anyone likes it or not with in-laws, nieces, nephews, wives, husbands, uncles, aunties, cousins and friends who hail from Mongu and vice-versa.
Countless Zambian names are Liseli Ngoma, Pumulo Ngoma, Nyambe Mulenga, Nalishebo Mulenga, Mwaba Mundia, Kondwani Namakando, Mutafela Banda, Kukeng’a Mubiana, Masauso Nawa, Ing’utu Haatembo, Nalumango Mudenda, Bwalya Mundia, Sepiso Litana and the list goes on.
For Limulunga-based separatists, if theirs is as a result of feeling the role of Lozis in Zambian affairs has gone thankless, separatism will just dampen their self-worth even more. If Lozis secede now, it will be like chickening out of the race because they feel deprived of the national cake.
It will be like they can’t compete with other Zambians and would rather be on their own as that’s where they stand a good chance of excelling. Hang in there. Stick it out.
Of course, subtle exclusion of Lozis or favouritism at their expense is hard to justify. All sharp brains and selfless impartial political communicators know it’s there, in fact there is not much we don’t know or understand about what may have led to secession calls reaching fever pitch now than ever before.
There are understandable sensitivities about that and as a nation; we’ve been dismal at the stuff. We must be considerate, it’s one of the fruit of the Holy Ghost to be considerate and in this case, KK’s ameliorative ONE ZAMBIA, ONE NATION is the answer and if properly applied, Lozis will be smiling all the way to Lealui.
The Barotseland agreement was never meant for secession by any who have understood its contents but obviously some in Limulunga have twisted it to their own ends because of their own grievances. The Barotse agreement is not a double entente – it only has one meaning: shared national resources, equal representation, management and development of western province equivalent to the rest of Zambia. The blunt truth is that Barotseland would have remained wallowing behind in deep colonial waters in 1964 if Mwanawina had not begged the rest of Zambia “not to leave us behind when the rest of the country is independent.”
As a matter of fact, the agreement should act as a surcingle that forever holds and unites Zambia and not divide it.
A secession strikes at the very idea of Zambia itself. The integrity of our blessed nation has been put at great risk. Hell has no fury than this kind of goofiness and only the enemy of men’s souls, Lucifer, will rejoice if things were to fall apart in Zambia. The discerning spiritual man knows that the Devil and his agents come to steal, kill and destroy, he weakens nations through blood sacrifices and will only be too glad to see Zambia split down the middle with copious amounts of bloodletting.
The unity of Zambia, the way this country’s patchwork of 73 tribes has stood as one nation all these years with no civil war, has been an immense praise item for many believers. Such praises to God for sustaining our nation since 1964, makes the Devil livid, all day long. All along, the evil one and his agents have been waiting for an opportune time in which to steal and destroy Zambia’s bragging rights about our national unity when most of Africa has often gone up in smoke.
To this end, Lozis must hang in there. Zambia is bigger than any one of us. Lozi time will surely come. If yesterday a Lamba man, followed by an easterner, were in power and today a Bemba man reigns, tomorrow it could be a Lozi, an easterner, a Lamba or Tonga or Bemba again.
Good things come to those who wait. And God’s timing is perfect, the Almighty rules in human affairs gives nations to whomsoever He pleases to accomplish His purposes. But He will call all rulers to account, unless they confess and repent in this life, for all atrocities against their people; favouritism, vindictiveness and all injustices.
There are insoluble consequences on Lozis and the entire Zambia if Western Province were to achieve separatism. It must not be. It would be a festering wound that would never heal.
A carnage of Biblical proportions such as when the tribe of Benjamin tried secession from the rest of Israel and fought a bloody battle against their brethren.
All because of a few selfish egos that would not give and take. A visitor from Judah had gone to the province of Benjamin and some perverted individuals surrounded the house where he was to spend the night intending to do him great harm. To appease their wrath, he had to take his concubine and bring her out to them.
And they abused the man’s concubine all night long until morning when they let her go. Then the woman came as the day was dawning, and fell down at the door of the house where her master was, till it was light.
When her master arose in the morning, and opened the door of the house in order to be on his way back to Judah, there was his concubine, fallen at the door of the house with her hands on the threshold. And he said to her, “Get up and let us be going.” But there was no response, she was dead. So the man lifted her body onto his donkey; and returned to Judah.
Upon arrival in his town, he took a knife, laid hold of her body and cut it in 12 parts according to the number of all the tribes in the nation of Israel (would have cut the body in 73 parts if he was a Zambian).
He cut the body limb by limb and sent the pieces throughout the territory of Israel. And so it was that all who saw it were enraged and said, “No such deed has been done or seen from the day that the children of Israel came up from the land of Egypt until this day. Consider it, confer, and speak up!”
Long story short, all Israel gathered to go to war against their own brethren, the tribe of Benjamin but not before asking the Benjamites to own up.
Benjamin did not own up nor did they see sense and the need to preserve national unity by handing over the perverts who had gang-raped the concubine of a fellow Israelite leading to her painful death.
Instead, the tribe of Benjamin stubbornly gathered together from their towns in the province of Gibeah to go to battle against the whole nation of Israel. One tribe against the rest of the nation.
It seems the Benjamites were a very proud lot. They gathered 26, 700 soldiers to face the rest of Israel’s 400,000 soldiers. It was a bloody and protracted battle and in the end, the tribe of Benjamin was defeated in this staggering burden of needless bloodshed. The battle was fierce as brother fought against brother.
God was on the side of justice, as He always is. The Lord fought for Israel and defeated the tribe of Benjamin even if the single tribe boasted 700 select men who were left-handed; every one of them could sling a stone at a hair’s breadth and not miss.
Twenty-five thousand and 100 Benjamites were slaughtered in battle although they also did claim a huge number of Israeli casualties perhaps because of the blessing of God on their forbearer, Benjamin, the beloved youngest son of Jacob. There were 600 Benjamites who survived the war and fled into the wilderness as if to at least preserve the tribe. God’s blessings and prayers stick and even for Lozis, because of the way Sebitwane and Lewanika opened up Zambia to western missionaries’ spiritual and material good, God has not forgotten them.
Now the men of Israel had sworn an oath saying “none of us shall give his daughter to a Benjamite as a wife.” After the routing of the tribe of Benjamin, Israel gathered in the house of God until evening where the nation wept bitterly that one tribe was no more.
(Closer to home, it is like the Zambia Army going to Western Province and slaughtering the entire population, if the Barotse hotheads declared war on the rest of Zambia. Suddenly, Zambians would feel the enormity of the loss, that one tribe out of the 73 is no more in a day of national mourning unprecedented in Zambia’s history).
Israel lifted up their voice and wept bitterly for the tribe of Benjamin, their brethren. The remaining tribes of Israel cried, “O Lord God of Israel, why has this come to pass in Israel, that today there should be one tribe missing in Israel?” Get the hint.
And the children of Israel grieved excruciatingly for Benjamin their brother, and said, “One tribe is cut off from Israel today. What shall we do for wives for those who remain, seeing we have sworn by the Lord that we will not give them our daughters as wives?”
So Israel found among the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead 400 young virgins who had not known a man intimately and they brought them to the camp of Israel. Israel then sent word to the 600 Benjamites who fled the war into the wilderness, and announced peace to them.
So the tribe of Benjamin came back at that time and Israel gave them the young virgins but there were not enough for the surviving Benjamites. The nation of Israel was determined and they said, “There must be an inheritance for the survivors of Benjamin, that a tribe may not be destroyed from Israel.” Israel’s second plan was to give the remaining Benjamites daughters of Shiloh and go back to the land of Benjamin to once again replenish a tribe that had been wiped out by war, a senseless war because the tribe of Benjamin did not see their wrong.
“Sorry” should cease being the hardest word. Prima donna attitudes and egos are detrimental to national unity. We must all be wary of insoluble consequences when fault lines appear in our national unity. Things can go badly wrong in the ties that bind if national unity is not jealously harnessed.
The frightening parallels in the Bible exemplum are profitable to those who have ears to hear. There are wounds that are impossible to heal on both sides if a Barotse secession was to take place. We have been one country all along as was Ethiopia and Eritrea where its leaders are even cousins and yet look at their bitterest enmity!
It only takes one careless spark to lose it all but it shall not be so for Zambia.
The Author is a former Diplomat at the Zambian Embassy in Brussels. He has also authored two books: Why is God silent on Mandela? (2009) and Responsible Journalism by example(2011)