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Zambia’s Reputation as Peaceful Nation “now hangs in the balance”: Jesuit Scholars Decry

Logo Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR)

The leadership of the Zambia-based Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) is expressing concerns about the reputation of the institute’s host country.

In a Sunday, November 22 statement, JCTR officials say that the “political violence” being witnessed in the Southern African nation is getting the country’s image into bad repute.

“Mother Zambia has a hard-earned reputation as a peaceful and friendly country. This reputation now hangs in the balance as we increasingly continue to experience unwarranted cases of political violence which are doing irreparable damage to our long-standing motto of ‘One Zambia, One Nation’,” the Jesuit scholars say.

They bemoan, “It is disheartening to see people from the same community engaging in physical violence and fights emanating from the political differences.”

In the statement signed by JCTR Executive Director, Fr. Alex Muyebe, the officials further lament, “It is worrisome that political party leaders in this country are not ashamed of exploiting or taking advantage of poor, unemployed and vulnerable youths to their advantage.”

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“Unemployed youths are being used as tools of violence that can easily be sacrificed like pawn pieces in a game of chess,” the officials of the Lusaka-based Jesuit institution say and continue, “It is also sad to note that some youths are allowing themselves to be brainwashed and to sacrifice their human dignity at the altar of political hooliganism.”

As Zambia gears towards the 2021 general elections, the citizens of the Southern African nation have witnessed several clashes pitting youth suspected to be supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) against those of the opposition, the United Party for National Development (UPND).

The November 15 attack of Charmaine Musonda, an aspiring parliamentary member of the UPND, alongside three other people were assaulted as they prepared to go for a rally to be addressed the party’s President, Hakainde Hichilema is one of the most recent incidences.

On October 14, suspected UPND cadres reportedly attacked residents of Mununga area in Mpika District situated in the northeastern part of the country.

In the November 22 statement, JCTR officials indicate that the violence in the country is being fueled by “polarized media, institutionalization of cadreism, proliferation of hate speeches, cheap culture of handouts, promotion of geo-centric and ethnocentric-politics, and erosion of confidence in the electoral process.”

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“Clashes between party cadres must never be allowed to take place in this country because we are one people who must always respect and accommodate each other’s political opinions,” officials of the Jesuit Research institution say.

They call on “both the ruling and opposition political party leaders to immediately put an end to political violence in this Zambia.” 

“Political leaders must work together to stamp out this cancer of political violence that is slowly but surely spreading in the political fabric of this nation,” JCTR officials say and urge politicians to “work together and take concrete steps to stem out the culture of political violence by addressing the root causes.”

They further urge politicians in Zambia to “take a lead in practicing and promoting politics of mutual tolerance and mutual respect.”

“Mere public denunciation or condemnation of political violence alone will not stop the violence. Leaders must teach by example,” JCTR officials underscore in their November 22 statement, adding that the Southern African nation needs “leaders who are capable of engaging in a constructive dialogue and honest reconciliation.”

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They emphasize, “Zambia needs leaders that are capable of putting the interest of the nation ahead of their personal interest or their cronies’ interest.” 

Addressing themselves to the country’s youth, JCTR officials say, “It is high time young people woke up and be in charge of their destiny.”

Just over a week ago, Bishop George Zumaire Lungu of Zambia’s Chipata Diocese expressed concerns about some “worrisome” trends that seem to threaten the Southern African nation’s peace and that “if left unchecked may force the country to sacrifice the treasured peace at the altar of expediency.”

Speaking at the opening of the peacebuilding workshop in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka November 11, Bishop Lungu highlighted the “insensitive tribal remarks from high ranking government officials, which promote hatred between tribes, dragging our traditional authorities into partisan politics” among the worrisome trends.

The Bishop also mentioned the tendency to promote “rifts within and between Churches” alongside corruption, which he said is a vice that is “slowly becoming the acceptable way of getting things done for you.”

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“It is a time to take note of the silent cries of our people and respond accordingly,” the 60-year-old Zambian Prelate went on to say, addressing himself to the 44 participants in the peacebuilding workshop.