I begin by giving a brief background on how certain countries got embroiled in tribal and civil strife leading to thousands and in some instances millions of killings and displacements. I also look at the causes behind such strife. There are always causes for every strife but only one igniting event is responsible for starting the war, or before killings begin. Without a spark, most of these killings that have been witnessed would have been avoided. I will give four examples,

Part One: 1) The 1994 Rwanda Genocide 2) The Gukurahundi Massacres of 1982 to 1987 in Zimbabwe Part Two: 3) The 2007 Post Election Tribal Violence in Kenya and 4) World War One.

1) The 1994 Rwanda Genocide

The 1994 Rwanda has a history that dates to 1950s when the conflict began. For almost a century, the Minority Tutsis ruled Rwanda. They acquired their land and wealth through conquest while the Hutus were regarded as the conquered and the less privileged or poor. Up to 1950s most of Tutsis generally occupied the higher positions in society while the Hutus were always relegated to the lower levels. With the movements on the African Continent gaining ground for independence in the 1950s and 1960s, the Hutus could not wait for democratic rule which entailed a one man one vote universal suffrage and stood to gain from majority rule while most of the Tutsi groupings resisted the democratization of Rwanda lest they lost their wealth and status in society.

In November 1959, came a violent Hutu uprising in which hundreds of Tutsis were killed and thousands displaced and forced to flee to neighboring countries marking the beginning of what came to be known as Hutu Peasant Revolution which lasted for three years from 1959 to 1961 and is reported to have signified the end of Tutsi domination but increased ethnic tensions between the two tribes and hostilities continued up to Independence in 1962. At independence when the Hutus came to power, 120 000 Rwandese mainly Tutsis became refugees in surrounding countries. Guerilla Warfare and insurgency increased mainly from Uganda causing displacement of people and by late 1980s, there were 480 000 refugees in surrounding countries. This gave birth to the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) which was a Tutsi dominated political and military organization. This movement launched several military attacks on Rwanda from Uganda with the main one being in November 1990 with 7000 fighters and displaced thousands of people.

The igniting moment came in 1994 when the plane carrying both the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi was brought down by what the Rwandan Government suspected was a rocket fired by the RPF and both presidents died in that plane crash. It was against this attack that the Rwandan Government allegedly labelled all Tutsis in Rwanda as accomplices to the RPF and all those Hutus who were collaborating with the Tutsi dominated RPF as traitors. It was further alleged that some radio stations aligned to the government joined the campaign in identifying who was a Tutsi and urged the Hutus to kill the “Cockroach.” The rest of the story is known to everyone. An estimated one million people were killed and hundreds of thousands fled to neighbouring countries. Between 150 000 and 250 000 women were raped during the upheavals.

The Gukurahundi Massacres of 1982 to 1987 in Zimbabwe

It is not the author’s intention to open old wounds about the events that led to the massacre of people in the Midlands and Matebeleland but history cannot be erased. A brief history: The Gukurahundi massacres were a series of state-sanctioned killings that took place in Zimbabwe between 1982 and 1987. The massacres were allegedly ordered by Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU-PF) leader Robert Mugabe as part of his political strategy to establish a one-party state. The Zimbabwean army’s Fifth Brigade, which was trained by North Korea, carried out most of the atrocities and massacres in Matabeleland and Midlands, killing an estimated 20,000 civilians and thousands more were tortured or disappeared. The army also used the Bhalagwe concentration camp to execute the murders and withheld food aid to punish Ndebele opposition voters.

The similarities between Zimbabwe and Rwanda are that both countries comprise two main tribes and hence the struggle for power before the killings in both countries were between the two main tribes. This is different with Zambia where the country boasts of having 73 tribes and seven main languages. Zambia was blessed at independence because our forefathers did not look at one’s tribe but came together and united to defeat the colonialists. Zambia was also fortunate to have been blessed with Dr. Kenneth Kaunda who ensured that people did not identify themselves by tribe but by nationality. That was why a Zambian whether from West, East, South, North, Central or Northwest is identified first as a Zambian before thinking of knowing where the person comes from. In Rwanda, the killing of their president was a spark that led to the beginning of killings while the Church and the Media played a big role in spreading the killings. In Zimbabwe, it can be argued that the killings were mainly based on tribal hatred. The main opposition party in Zimbabwe at that time was Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU) led by Joshua Nkomo a Ndebele while the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union was led by a Shona Robert Mugabe. President Mugabe was trying to exterminate the opposition to pave way for a one-party state.

Politicians promoting tribal hatred in Zambia

Any unchecked degeneration of political events in Zambia has the potential to spark some strife. We are lucky that because of the One Zambia One Nation philosophy that we embraced under Kaunda and has continued to be our guiding principle, there is so many intermarriages and cohesion that it would almost be impossible for one region to advocate separation from the rest of the country. Further, calling for other tribes to be cut off from a certain province, region or regions is not possible under our environment. It is a dream of pure tribalists and should not be allowed. Some individuals and groups have taken advantage of the abduction of Hon. JJ to bring tribal divisions in Zambia with some groupings and tribes expressing being sidelined by the New Dawn Government while some are claiming being victimized on tribal grounds like Lameck Mangani and his Umodzi Kummawa group. Similarly, one MP has even gone to the extent of being a spokesperson for Bembas and Easterners by suggesting a fight between Zambia Police and the Bembas and Easterners. While it is within anybody’s right to express himself over these issues, some of them like Edith Nawakwi just show total hatred towards President HH. Hon Maureen Mabonga and Hon Munir Zulu’s statements rightly border on Sedition and Hate speech respectively as the police put it. These are straightforward cases for arrest and prosecution. I also listened to and watched the Northwest guy video asking Mr. Lungu to go to Northwest for Circumcision and that Mr. Lungu was an idiot. My view is that Idiot is not offensive if he can prove that Mr. Lungu is an Idiot because the word itself is an expression of opinion. To ask Mr. Lungu to go to Northwest for circumcision is in bad test but I doubt if it is an offence. It may be offensive, but not an offence under the Zambian Statutes. It is not divisive as it is directed at an individual. I haven’t seen any other audio or video from Southern Province as alleged by Madam Edith Nawakwi which is inciting tribal hatred but if it is there, then the originator should face the law without exception just like Munir. In Eastern Province, there is an audio calling on all Tongas who are in the province to start packing if JJ is not found which I condemned in the strongest terms possible. We have urged the leadership in the province and groupings to disassociate their parties and groups from Munir Zulu’s and condemn the Audio recording statements.

Just like Rwanda and Zimbabwe, it is very easy for Zambia to slide into anarchy. We have been united as a people since independence and we are now heading towards 60 years. We only have one country Zambia and we have never had Zambian refugees as some of those had criminal cases and ran away from the due process of the Law. Therefore, the police should not only be independent but should be seen to act professionally and independent. It is therefore upon the police command to bring the current political temperature down by:

1) Speeding their investigations and arrest of those who abducted Hon JJ Banda without exception. If JJ Banda committed a crime, they had recourse to report him to law enforcement agencies than abducting him. Those who abducted JJ are enemies of the state and the people of Zambia.

2) Arrest all those who have taken advantage of JJ’s abduction to promote hate speech such as Munir Zulu and issuing seditious statements such as Maureen Mabonga, the man in an Audio from Eastern Province calling for all Tongas to pack and go. I have the audio if the police don’t have it.

3) Avoid engaging Mr. Lungu if he has not committed any offence or if he is not suspected of about to commit an offence as that just gives him unnecessary publicity. However, if he commits an offence or is suspected to be about to commit an offence, do not send officers who will be like they have been thrown into a den of lions. Send officers who will pick up Mr. Lungu and arrest him just like any other citizen and take him to court.

We can surely live as one people in diversity and avoid what happened in Rwanda and Zimbabwe. Police should be decisive and act. To be continued in Part Two.

About the Author
Leemans L. Nyirenda is a Human Rights Advocate, Author, Researcher, Youth and Development Partner and Corporate and Management Consultant. He holds a Master of Business Administration, Bachelor of Laws, and Diploma in Human Resource Management.