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Can criminalizing tribalism promote unity in Zambia?   

LUSAKA Zambia (Xinhua) -- Zambians have been subjected to the doings of tribalism that risks creating more disunity, causing concerns among stakeholders who feel this should be dealt with before it divides the country more.

Zambian President Edgar Lungu earlier this week said the government may criminalize tribalism and hate speech in an effort to promote peace and unity in the country.

The Zambian leader, who has been preaching against tribalism following divisions witnessed after the disputed elections, said his government will also abolish issuance of national identification documents depicting a person’s tribe, adding that identifying people by tribe has not helped the country in anyway.

“Let’s completely abolish or obliterate identification documents classifying people by tribe. The white man came and started classifying people by tribe,” the Zambian leader told local media after touring Kigali Genocide Memorial Center during his visit to Rwanda.

Zambia, he said, should learn from Rwanda’s genocide experience where one million people were killed on tribal lines.

Lungu’s statement has since received mixed reactions from a cross section of stakeholders in this southern African nation.

“I believe tribalism is being promoted by some politicians to champion their political agenda. For example, if a PF (governing Patriotic Front) cabinet minister goes to Eastern Province where President Edgar Lungu comes from and urges the easterners to vote for their own son, is that not promoting regionalism and tribalism,” Charles Kakoma, a retired prominent journalist and spokesperson of the main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) said on his Facebook page.

He said removing tribe from national identification documents in order to fight tribalism and promote unity was not an issue because tribe was not even included on the documents.

His views have been supported by the opposition Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) which feels tribalism was being fueled by politicians.

Raphael Nakachinda, national secretary of one faction of the former ruling party said politicians were fueling tribalism due to their engagement in petty politics instead of engaging in issue-based discussions.

But the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, one of the church mother bodies in the country, believes that the Zambian leader’s calls should be supported by all well-meaning Zambians.

Pukuta Mwanza, the executive director of the church mother body says criminalizing tribalism would go a long way in dealing with the problem which was a growing source of concern.

According to him, Zambia should do everything possible in order to tackle the problem of tribalism as it has the capacity to cause divisions in the country.

But one of the country’s leading lawyers accused law enforcement agencies of being weak in enforcing laws that bar people from using hate speech and language bordering on tribalism.

Hobday Kabwe said that expression of tribalism and hate speech were already illegal despite the police failing to enforce the law.

According to him, chapter 7 of the penal code clause 70 bars any person from uttering any words or publishing any writing expressing or showing hatred, ridicule or contempt for any person or group of persons.

However, others felt that the country’ first President Kenneth Kaunda, who managed to hold the 72 tribes together during his 27-year rule should help in promoting unity in the country.

They feel that Kaunda, who held the country together, through his slogan “One Zambia, One Nation” could be of valuable help in helping the current crop of politicians in promoting unity.



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