By Sycorax Tiyesa Ndhlovu
‘Don’t take peace for granted;’ former home affairs deputy minister, Colonel Panji Kaunda once told Zambians. For Zambia to maintain peace; and remain a beacon of peace in Africa, it should generate lessons from the past political events.
Despite Zambia having about 73 ethnic tribes, through Zambia’s motto of ‘One Zambia; One Nation’; and through the first republican president, Dr Kenneth Kaunda’s philosophy of Humanism coupled with being a Christian nation, Zambians were and are still indoctrinated to love, unity and co-operation among their fellow humankind. Such a background, among others, has promoted peace and stability in our motherland.
Although Zambia has never experienced war before, most Zambians understand the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the country. They smell, see and feel the negative consequences of Zambia in bloodshed.
Therefore, it takes understanding, wisdom and seriousness in every citizen, politician and the whole nation to maintain peace in a country.
For instance, although United National Independence Party (UNIP) under the leadership of Dr Kaunda led this country consecutively for 27 years; and that the former ruling party and Dr Kaunda were perceived as a strong political party and with strong personality respectively, with political pressure from some Zambians to re-introduce multi-party politics in 1990, first republican president, Dr Kaunda, considering the negative effects on peace that would arise from him resisting such political pressure, repealed article 4 of the then republican constitution to allow the re-introduction of multi-party politics for peace to prevail in Zambia.
By then, Dr Kaunda’s regime had remained with a year or so to complete another five year term.
Arising from that revocation of such a piece of legislation, Zambia had multi-party politics’ general elections in 1991 where second republican president, Frederick Chiluba and the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) won with landslide victory.
Before such, despite massive support for MMD at that time, understanding the dynamics of elections, Dr Chiluba never declared himself a winner before Zambians voted; and before Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) announced the election’s results in 1991.
And when Dr Kaunda and UNIP lost in the stated elections, the former and the latter, because of their love for peace in the country, coupled with high levels of wisdom, conceded defeat and peacefully handed over power to the then MMD government. Dr Kaunda told his supporters to accept the verdict Zambians gave UNIP and its leadership, and remain peaceful.
Consequently, Zambia remained peaceful as before.
This was the first time, Africa and the world at large started respecting Zambia as a beacon of peace because of peaceful transition from one government to another.
While Zambia recorded some political ups and downs in the past, because of the understanding and wisdom of most politicians and Zambians involved in such political differences, such divergence of political views haven’t reached alarming levels as one sees them today.
Zambians have always perceived peace and stability to be more importance than personal, group, business or regional political interests. Many Zambians understand that love, unity, peace and stability are vital pre-requisites for sustainable socio-economic and political development processes for any country. Such a perception of importance of peace and stability in a country has given Zambians high levels of sober-mindedness and wisdom on how to handle political conflicts’ related issues.
Another example is in 2001 where there was a perception from some quarters of Zambian society that the former United Party for National Development’s leader, Anderson Mazoka had won the stated elections.
In spite of such rumours, Mazoka never fought using all sorts of legal and illegal means; including his short, tall, stout and slim relatives to claim victory in that election. Consequently, after such elections, Zambia remained peaceful.
Take 2006 general elections. Some Zambians thought that former opposition Patriotic Front (PF) leader, Michael Chilufya Sata had won the stated elections. Some Sata’s supporters wanted to take to the streets; and create havoc in the country; arguing that the then MMD’s government stole some votes from Mr Sata.
But Sata, after cogitating about negative repercussions of civil strife in a country, using his political knowledge, experience and wisdom, calmly and swiftly told his supporters not to create any civil strife; but remain calm. Late Sata advised his supporters to remain peaceful as peace was more important for everyone than winning an election.
As if this wasn’t enough, the same happened in 2008 with the same opposition party: PF; especially after a certain news media organization, from an opinion poll which a certain organisation conducted, reported that Sata would win the 2008 general elections. When elections were conducted, it was perceived that late Sata won the 2008 polls. But he didn’t. As if he was doing it deliberately, even at this time, he told his supporters never ever arm themselves and get to the streets to cause havoc in Zambia.
Moreover, after ruling the country for two decades, the MMD’s regime under Rupiah Banda lost elections to the opposition party, PF in 2011. After mounting a perceived most expensive political campaign ever seen in Zambia, former republican president, Rupiah Banda who is commonly known as RB conceded defeat to PF leader, late Sata.
What was unique about RB yielding defeat was that, while it pains to lose an election, he even attended President Sata’s inauguration. With surprise and pain that he lost power, RB, while at the same inauguration ceremony, shed tears in front of the public and while on camera.
However, RB allowed the democratically elected president-elect to be sworn in for peace and stability to prevail in Zambia. Among others, this is how RB is highly regarded as a statesman locally and internationally.
Because of such high levels of political knowledge, wisdom and statesmanship among former republican presidents and the former opposition leaders, Zambians and their political leaders have maintained peace and stability in Mother Zambia for more half a century now.
From such a background, African and other international countries respect Mother Zambia as a beacon of peace.
Moreover, each time we have political differences resulting into political tension in our country, church mother bodies such as Christian Council of Zambia (CCZ), Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) and Zambia Episcope Conference (ZEC); including Northmead Assemblies of God under Bishop Joshua Banda and many others have been instrumental in mediating peace and conflict resolution.
Additionally, each election has had local and international monitors and observers. Reports from such monitors and observers have always stated that each election was free and fair; therefore credible. In short, Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) is professional and competent enough to effectively handle elections. Such professionalism and competence has contributed to sustaining peace in Zambia for decades now.
Like late Dr Chiluba in 1991 elections, in the past elections, except before August 11, 2016 polls, no political candidate declared himself or herself a winner before Zambians voted and before ECZ announced election’s results.
Hence, before August 11, 2016 elections, Zambia has never been known for civil strife after elections where some Zambians are displaced; and therefore live like refugees in their own country.
This is not to say that there can be no political conflict of a certain magnitude in Zambia; but saying that each time such occurs, we should be careful and wise enough to avoid chaos, bloodshed and human displacements.
But before August 11, 2016 polls, some politicians predicted results of such elections; and even foretold what courts of law would say when such election’s results are petitioned in courts of law. ‘I have already won in these elections. And I won’t accept defeat if I lose;’ some politicians claimed and foretold. Such can be causes of current anarchy and bloodshed in some regions.
It’s from such practical examples that each Zambian regardless of political affiliation or where one hails from, each republican president and each opposition leader should pick a leaf from such political illustrations each time we have political differences.
Let’s preserve peace at all costs. If lost, peace is too costly to restore
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