The myth of a peaceful nation

The United States has warned its citizens against travel to Zambia during the upcoming election period. I' m hardly surprised. As I follow the political and social happenings not just in Zambia but in Malawi, the Middle East and now even in the UK, I also would rather be too cautious.

As I follow various blogs by Zambian and about Zambia and I take note of friend’s Facebook posts the persistent mantra is “we must pray for peace." Pray if you feel you must, but I think the crucial imperative is to act to promote peace. To ask ourselves “how do the things I do and say contribute to harmony and non-violence?”

Many Zambians labour under an illusion - the idea that “Zambia is a peaceful nation.” Our selective collective memory has distorted and erased aspects of our history that would hold many lessons for us and for holding and participating in democratic elections.

Ask many Zambian about our history of violence (both as perpetrators and as victims) and many will not be able to tell you about the Lumpa massacres, one party state oppression and the outbreak of violence that led to the end of the one party state. What we have had in Zambia is rather the absence of war.

Moreover, I feel it is essential to understand violence as more than a political mechanism, as more than fighting and active killing, but also to look at the violence enmeshed in our society. Despite us never having descended into war, violence is reality, it is tangible and pervades the essence of our everyday lives to a point that it leaves us ambivalent towards its existence.

The violence in our homes, hospitals, prisons and on our streets takes as many victims as a war fought with guns and bombs. For example, every day forty women and newborn babies die due to our frighteningly high mortality rates. Add to those deaths the people who could not access medical care, victims of violence and disease in prisons and you have numbers that should be the source of discontent among our citizens.

But we do not see this as violence. We think of bombs, knives and guns, of guerrillas waiting for us in the bush, when what we do have is the brutality of corruption, apathy and inequality. I sincerely hope that we do not see more bloodshed as a means of curing the ills of our society and our politics.

Photograph: Elizabeth Morrison on Flickr


Anonymous said...

I wish I were Zambian!


Mwila Agatha Zaza said...

Thanks Naijaboy

I'n many ways we are much better of than other countries, but what I was trying to get across was the must not fool ourselves into believing that we are not capable of violence

mulosblog said...

wow, great piece.
many Zambians buried their heads in the sand and live in a bubble.
it irks me, this pray for blah blah, and ignore the actual truth