‘Lungu’s refusal to declare hunger as emergency is ethnic cleansing’

‘Lungu’s refusal to declare hunger as emergency is ethnic cleansing’

Edgar Lungu’s refusal to declare the drought induced hunger situation is ethnic cleansing, nothing less

By Prof. Michelo Hansungule

The outgoing British High Commissioner MR FERGUS COCHRANE- DYET OBE has raised several serious questions for us Zambians to ponder on. With regards to the drought induced hunger situation in the country, the outgoing High Commissioner, in his August 27, 2019 farewell speech asked:

;….Neighbouring counties have declared food security emergencies. Why hasn’t Zambia? It’s estimated that 2.5m Zambians will soon be in crisis. Declaring an emergency would unlock international humanitarian assistance that donors can’t otherwise provide. People will undoubtedly die from malnutrition compounded by disease. Maybe Zambians and outsiders who deny the need for an emergency should examine their consciences….;

Well, fortunately, I am not one of the Zambians who deny the need for the existence of an emergency to address this catastrophic situation in parts of Zambia. In fact, from the reports in public domain I have read and the several discussions I have had with my relatives, friends and fellow Zambians in affected areas, I personally have no doubt the situation is and has been an emergency which any sane government should have so declared long time ago. Your Excellency, you’ve been in Zambia for a fairly good number of years now and I am sure you understand us probably more than we understand ourselves? The problem here Your Excellency, as in other situations, is simply because we are dealing with insanity to the extreme.

Just this week, Minister of Information Dora Siliya is reported to have not only denied the existence of hunger in affected areas but to have warned that anyone who affirms the existence of hunger will be arrested. If this is not insanity, what is it? Similarly, one term president Rupiah Banda equally denied reports of the existence hunger citing his visit to Livingstone where he allegedly found mealie meal in shops. For Banda, just sight of a bag of mealie meal in a shop in Livingstone is proof there is no hunger in Zambia. Do you wonder why he was just a one term president? To imagine such a person was in State House for five years, what a shame? Talking about India, Mahatima Gandhi said India is hundredsof thousands of villages. But for Banda, a shop in Livingstone town with a bag of mealie meal is Zambia.

Edgar Lungu’s strategy on the drought induced hunger in Zambia is very clear. Because the areas badly affected with the hunger situation also happen to be those which vote against him during elections, this could not have come in handy. It is ethnic cleansing, a war crime. He simply does not care about people in those areas, after all they are his opponents. He wishes them, the affected people, dead because they voted against him. This is the only reason why he would not bother declaring the situation an emergency.

Since he came to power, Edgar Lunguhas been very systematic in cleansing the public service of anyone from groups that are perceived to oppose him. Hundreds of senior civil servants from so-called opposition groups have been prematurely retired or simply dismissed simply or their ethnic belonging while appointing and promoting only his ethnic group. For the first time since independence, cabinet is deliberately not representative of all groups.

Yet, the issue of the drought induced hunger is very serious. Not just food ran out many months ago in affected areas, water for people and their animals dried way back. There is no water for people and for their animals. Government’s Disaster Management programme is not there on the ground. They are not there to manage the disaster, I confirmed this with people I spoke to in affected areas. Probably they are in government controlled media blasting people like myself who advance an opposite narrative to the propaganda line.

The issue of the drought induced hunger raises serious questions about our system of governance. Where affected people live are social leaders such as village heads and chiefs, spiritual leaders like priests and pastors and, of course, political leaders including councillors and members of Parliament. These are people that should not wait for someone in Lusaka to declare emergencies in their areas. Because they leave with people, they have a duty to refuse to be intimidated by anyone and tell it as it is regardless. A chief is a chief because of his or her people. If your people are sleeping without food or water, you should be the first to not just know about it but to declare it so. Similarly, pastors, priests and other spiritual leaders bear the same responsibility.

Problem, of course, is that Edgar Lunguand his PF killed the independent media long time ago. Without a free media, what can a poor chief do? One or two community radio stations here and there that dare to allow people to communicate are intimated. As we noted, Minister of information Dora Siliya is threatening arrests of anyone who confirms the hunger situation, what a stupid minister?

The current situation in affected areas in Zambia calls for the application of R2P. Responsibility to protect is the only way the international community will not bear responsibility for the situation in Zambia. It is important for the United Nations to take up this matter pursuant to the responsibility to protect and intervene in Zambia on humanitarian grounds. The situation currently in Zambia has ripened for the invocation of this principle so that the international community can intervene without the invitation of the Zambian government to serve people from starvation.

O the World Food Programme website, Emergencies are described as

urgent situations in which there is clear evidence that an event, or series of events, has occurred which causes human suffering or imminently threatens lives or livelihoods, and which the government concerned has not the means to remedy; and it is a demonstrably abnormal event, or series of events, which produces dislocation in the life of a community on an exceptional scale.”

Which factor here is not fulfilled in respect of the situation in Zambia? Evidence has long been clear that the drought and poor planning will cause suffering and even threaten lives in affected areas but those who are in government with power to change things around are not bothered. As long as they eat and live comfortably with their families, they are not bothered by the suffering of those who vote against them.  

Recently, some Zambians have expressed intention to render assistance towards ameliorating the situation. HH the main opposition leader is reported to have indicated readiness to assist the affected areas with a donation of twenty-five thousand bags of mealie meal but government has allegedly rejected the donation. They refuse international now local donations clearly because they have bad intentions. The answer to all this is R2P. The UN is duty bound by the UN founding Charter to prevent a humanitarian crisis of major proportions evidently on the door steps in Zambia. As the British High Commissioner observes, this emergency has potential to claim 2.5 million lives.  






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