Chapter One Foundation joins the rest of the continent in commemorating Africa Day on 25th May 2022 and celebrating the strides we have collectively made towards the shared objectives of freedom, equality, and justice since its first observance in 1963. As we celebrate the progress we have made towards our goals, we acknowledge that there is much more to be done.

For Zambia and its people, the occasion of Africa Day is an opportunity to consider our present aspirations, self-reliance, inclusive economic and social development being chief among them. In consolidating our sovereignty, it is imperative that we pursue emancipation from debt and external influence which undermines our independence. For individual Zambians, the duty is to hold their elected representatives responsible by demanding accountability and transparency in government’s external dealings, fiscal policy, and economic empowerment schemes.

Africa Day is also an opportunity to take stock of our progress towards our collective continental goals. In 2013, African heads of state and government committed to “Agenda 2063: the Africa We Want” and signed the 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration re-affirming the vision of ‘an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international arena’. Agenda 2063 was borne of the need to prioritise inclusive social and economic development, continental and regional integration, democratic governance and peace and security. Of note is the commitment to entrenching democratic values, practices, universal human rights, justice, and the rule of law on the continent. Undoubtedly, these values and principles are indispensable in achieving the Africa we want. While this is a long-term goal, its overall success is dependent on the actions we take in the short-term to overcome immediate challenges.

Today our continent faces several political, economic, and social challenges which undermine our objectives. While some of these challenges are the result of unavoidable events, others are the result of deliberate human action and/or inaction. Despotic governments, civil strife, insurgence, divisive politics, xenophobic violence, shrinking civic space, rampant corruption, and performative elections which make a ceremony of democracy are some of the most potent manmade threats to our collective freedom. They undermine our efforts towards holistic development and hamper our progress as a people. Regardless of their origins, all these challenges are surmountable through deliberate collective effort.
It is often rightly said that our destinies, like our histories, do not unfold in isolation and that we can only truly be free when all others are free. Freedom, equality, and justice cannot co-exist with oppression of any description. It begins with the individual realisation that our rights and freedoms cannot be enjoyed in isolation and ends with the acceptance that to fight for one’s rights one must inevitably fight for the rights of others. Ubuntu and Pan-Africanism therefore become more than mere abstractions to punctuate occasional speeches, they are understood as a call to selfless and purposeful action for the benefit of our immediate and wider community. When we all guard jealously those rights and freedoms which we accept as imperative to our existence, we affirm our dedication to our collective emancipation.

In commemorating Africa Day, we wish to pledge our unwavering commitment to the fight for irreducible democratic human rights and freedoms wherever they may be endangered on the continent as we strive to realise the Africa we want. We wish to particularly pledge our support to civil society actors and human rights defenders who are working under intolerant regimes, in shrinking civic spaces and facing prosecution. We are confident that as we reclaim the civic space in Zambia there is room to not only provide a platform and give visibility to pressing issues but to lend our voice to those who are struggling under the weight of censorship. We continue to call for regional cooperation amongst civil society actors and joint efforts with human rights defenders to reclaim the civic space.

Chapter One Foundation Limited promotes and protects human rights, human rights defenders, constitutionalism, social justice, and the rule of law in Zambia, primarily through strategic litigation, advocacy, and capacity building. Our aim is to promote and protect the Constitution and the rights included in it and by so doing contribute to a democratic dispensation in which citizens can freely participate in the democratic governance of their country.

Chapter One Foundation is a civil society organization that promotes and protects human rights, constitutionalism, the rule of law and social justice in Zambia. Please follow us on Facebook under the page ‘Chapter One Foundation’ and on Twitter and Instagram @CofZambia. You may also email us at infodesk@cof.org.zm