Re-opening a chapter in Zambia’ s tribal history


Firstly, let me level set. My name is David Zgambo and I hail from The Eastern Province of Zambia. I have no political or tribal affiliations to Hakainde Hichilema whatsoever, and this editorial comment is purely based on reason.

Over the past year, our country has been all ears on political campaigns that have not only spurred dogmatic violence, but also tribal rhetoric to a degree unseen since time immemorial. Mentioning a tribe like Tonga, both in political and social circles, now sparks some heated conversation to say the least. For a country with such a mantra as “One Zambia One Nation”, one would expect unity to be deeply embedded in the bedrock of its sovereignty. Alas, “One Zambia One Nation” has become nothing but a silent mantra devoid of its patriotic connotation, a chant that political leaders are customarily using to garner support while masking their intrinsic disdain for other tribes. Consider it not a fallacy that we are a nation divided.

Before independence, the British adopted the old Divide and Rule strategy which saw the segmentation of then Northern Rhodesia into numerous ethnic groups. This approach divided the population into controllable clusters that made it impossible to come together and revolt against the sovereign authority. This, to a greater degree, rendered inhabitants docile. The colonialists also devised a strategy of applying stereotypes to the different tribes. Per se, the Ngoni, Bemba and the Lozi were branded in various colonial spheres as “powerful.” The Lamba were characterized “lazy and sluggish”; and the Lunda were well-thought-out to have “an intuitive aversion for work in a systematic manner.” Many other Zambian tribes, including the Tonga, were marginalized and made to assume a second-class citizenry. While I don’t have to go into detail reminding us of all the grisly effects of colonialism, the aforementioned stereotypes would subsequently become grounds for discrimination and a barometer of one’s success.

Post Independence in 1964, the ultimate challenge was how to meld these disproportionate ethnic groups into a Republic whose citizens would identify as Zambians. President Kenneth Kaunda, on his first day of office, embarked on the development and institutionalization of deliberate policies that would promote Nation-building, as echoed in the renowned mantra “One Zambia One Nation.” A number of factors augmented the common national experience across the cultural spectrum. For instance, the first administration deemed it a strategic imperative to realize an ethnic balance in appointments to the cabinet and other key government positions. The intent was to provide Zambia’s diverse ethnic population with representation and hence a stake in the newly formed Republic. Kaunda’s administration put in place a myriad of good governance practices that ensured Zambians were in alignment not only with the nation, but also individual ethnic groups. To a greater extent, the effort to forge “One Zambia One Nation” had succeeded until October 28th 2014 when our country’s fifth President, Michael Chilufya Sata, who happened to be a fervent nationalist, died. That was exactly 50 years and 4 days after Independence.

Sata’s demise and the subsequent rise of his successor, Edgar Chagwa Lungu, has not only jeopardized decades of progress in forging consensus and national unity, but also re-opened an undeserving chapter in history that should have been kept closed – the old Divide and Rule scheme. Owing to his domineering yet feeble, corrupt and mostly inept leadership, Edgar Lungu has decided to borrow a page from the colonial master’s playbook to polarize Zambia on tribal lines as a way of subduing his political archrivals, notably Hakainde Hichilema. Moreover, his endorsement of ethnic stereotyping, like we’ve seen in this year’s presidential campaigns, is proving to be an effective way of diverting people’s attention from the principal subject, his unscrupulous tendencies.
In a short span, Edgar Lungu has done lasting damage to the state of our union, and is in no way capable of fostering a sense of unity and common purpose which is a critical ingredient for peace, stability and economic development. Zambia’s next president will be faced with the same challenge as Kenneth Kaunda did on day one of office in 1964, to meld our disproportionate ethnic groups into a Republic whose citizens ought to once again identify as Zambians.

As we travail amidst multiple travesties of law and order, let’s bear in mind that Edgar Lungu has his ducks in a row. Having full knowledge of colonial history like most of us, he knows exactly where our ethnic fault lines lay and is purposefully agitating them to see Zambia divided at all costs. This notion only plays to his advantage, and it’s incumbent upon every well-meaning citizen to see through Lungu’s Machiavellianism and repudiate him. Now is the time for us to unite as one people and refrain from discounting one another.

Therefore, I urge every Zambian to show great resolve in our concerted effort to take back our country; however much the adversity, let us not succumb to the intimidation of Edgar Lungu. Protecting our indelible rights and country is an ideal which we should all be prepared to die for.

Patriotic Zambian.

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