Peace after 20 September

Peace after 20 September

By Hilary Mulenga
We are just a month away from the General elections that will determine almost everything for Zambia in the next five years. Behind the hustle and bustle of hot campaigns, these elections should send excitement and shivers down our spines. There is reason to believe that the 2011 General elections will be so different in the history of Zambia.
On a positive note, the elections coincide with our 20th anniversary of embracing multi-party democracy. This is no meager achievement. Zambians should stand tall for that achievement.
In 1991, there was a peaceful transition from one-party participatory politics to multi-party politics. We should even be proud that the founding president Dr. Kenneth Kaunda peacefully handed over power to the late former president Frederick Chiluba. That transition never saw the loss of blood, not even a drop. In Africa, where presidents have appetite for eternal rule, we should give credit to our founding father for listening to the voice of Zambians that he needed to retire.
Zambians should be proud of themselves, too, that in the last 20 years we witnessed another handover of power from one president to another. Politics aside, we should be grateful that late president Frederick Chiluba humbly accepted the decision by Zambians to follow the constitution and never allow him to run for a third term. We should be proud, too, that in the last 20 years, we have made decisions to elect our leaders at least four times. It’s not a small achievement in a continent where elections are easily deferred.
We should even be proud that despite the whining that is easily associated with the loss in elections, it has never yielded trouble for the country. Notwithstanding a few suspicions of foul play, Zambians have preferred suffering in peace than butchering each other like we see in other African countries. To use a funny jargon, we can say that Zambians are “stubbornly peaceful”!
However, this year, a lot has happened and unless the nation embraces vigilance, we could be turning a very bad page in the history of the nation.
Without exaggerating anything, the run up to this year’s General election has been a troubled path. Never before in the history of the nation have we seen dirty politicking that does not sympathize with the peace of the nation. Although Zambians are putting up with each other, we cannot pride ourselves of a pseudo-peace when we know many people are boiling inside.
Up to now, there is no solution to the problem that has been raised by the Lozis in the Western province. The government has only managed to deal with the symptoms of the problem and never the root cause. One gets a feeling that there is belittlement of what our brothers and sisters are crying for.
The violence we witnessed in the Western province clearly reminds us that we are a fragile nation that only clings to the idea of peace. One thing we cannot forget is the reality that they too are Zambians like us.
The abuse of state resources has hurt many Zambians. Up until now, the ruling party has put up propaganda in public media institutions much to the annoyance of many Zambians. These media institutions that thrive on taxpayers’ money are increasingly annoying to many Zambians who want to listen, watch and read what they pay for.
Some programs deliberately attack innocent people like the Church, individuals and other institutions without according them opportunity to defend themselves.
These individuals, churches and institutions have followers who are Zambians and insulting them is tantamount to insulting their followers. unfortunately, the government sees nothing wrong in running such programs.
The infighting among politicians themselves has been of its own kind. Although each politician has a right to discourage people from voting for his or her opponent, trading of insults, scheming against each other and running campaigns bordering on contempt for each other is never acceptable in a civilized society. One just wonders how hard it may be for some politicians to concede defeat to the other if they so abhor one another.
Rigging of elections is still a reality that has to be addressed adequately. Unfortunately, there has been less effort to curb suspicions of vote rigging. With due respect to the electoral body, the institution lacks the bone to fight electoral malpractices vis-à-vis suspicions of rigging. One wonders why the same issue comes up again and again.
Of course, it is fallacious to think that the institution can satisfy every political player but these issues needed to have been discussed beforehand if they recur every election.
It is mysterious just how the same institution only engages political players at the eleventh hour to discuss some pertinent issues when they have five years to sort out all grievances.

Needless to say, the readiness of the nation for these year’s elections is a complex issue that we can only commit to unity and God’s protection. Fortunately for us, we are not fiercely divided along tribal lines. We are able to live with each other and to forgive and to move on.

It is for this reason that we should be vigilant during these elections and guard against all recklessness. But that calls for every Zambian to open up eyes and guard against all that can divide and destroy us. God bless our nation Zambia.

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