In April 2012, I wrote an article Of tribalism and narrow minds. I had shared my thoughts then based on the observation of a silent but potent threat that our country faced.
Over two years later, I believe firmly this danger is growing even stronger by the day. I am seeing it prominently appear each time I surf social media for trends and any active discussions in the country. Sadly even some comments that have been widely publicised and attributed to some of our leaders make it an even bigger issue.
So who’s talking tribal?
In the recent weeks, we have heard some very negative remarks from one of our MPs regarding President Sata’s funeral proceedings. It bordered strongly on an off remark about tribe. The observation made may have been meant to drive a point home but it also was a reflection of a possible unfortunate national challenge.
When one scours different forms of social engagement and discourse such as Facebook, print media and Online publications, it is easy to pick a growing sense of disunity and erroneous pride. The comments associated with different discussions point to a sharp rise in tribal undertones.
The country is currently highly politicised and approaching a presidential by-election as well as national elections in 2016. However, the general emphasis of most discussions is painfully obscure and not premised on quality leadership or delivery at all. On the contrary, many such debates or discussions effortlessly degenerate into tribal exchanges.
It is not rare now to find comments about which part of the country one hails from, negative attributes of one tribe compared to another and anything else so irrelevant.
At this stage, we should be pressing our presidential hopefuls and current leaders on their vision. On the important aspects of how they will deliver on flowery promises, given our history of disappointment. Alas, there is quite a substantial amount of time lost on matters so trivial such as names and provincial origins.
An Ignored reality or fanning a flame?
Has it been a rapid deterioration or was it a cancer subtly working its way through the core of our nation’s soul?
I have always held and still do that tribalism is one of the worst forms of disability. This is a nation that has a rich history of unity and co-existence. Or perhaps not?
Most of us have grown up not bothering about where our friends come from and what language they speak. As long as we could communicate, there was no issue. I look back at my friends, colleagues, workmates etc and all have obviously been of different tribes. And at no point has this ever been an issue. I actually now have to scratch my head to remember if I ever knew which province my friends were from, growing up.
But it now appears so prevalent that this is at the heart of debates. It now seems more important than any other demands we have of our current and potential leaders. We now not only speak but also think in terms of a tribe of thieves, minority tribes, selfish tribes etc, the list goes on. And even the people that must lead a whole nation speak very little of national identity and unity. This is dangerous.
Maybe while the nation has grown over the last half century, this is one wound that never healed under the surface but was instead treated with bandages to pacify it. Or it may be that we have gotten so comfortable with our unity and peace that it has a very low price attached to it.
Whichever the case, the solution does not lie in playing our way right into a time bomb. Instead it lies in a nation and its people facing up to an ugly evil, then charting a positive way forward.
Freedom of expression or freedom of implosion?
The conception of technological advancement has remarkably led to the delivery of a bouncy baby. This is a healthy baby called freedom. More people are freer to share thoughts via the multiple channels available.
But as the case is with most things, abuse and irresponsibility also follow in close tow. Where we ought to witness more progress, we have been introduced to the ill of stupidity. It is this ailment that has resulted in the unfortunate proliferation of regrettable and shallow tribal talk.
It is the ultimate wish of every progressive individual that any development will be a positive change agent. This appears not to be the case when social media, pub talk, household chatter and those private corners are all being sucked into who is more Zambian than others.
God in His wisdom has made us all different and like the parts in the human body, all have a role to play. It is not anyone’s fault or choosing to be born in one part of the country and not the other. It is not anyone’s choice to speak one language over another. It should not be a curse or problem if one language is spoken less or widely by others. What must matter is that citizens of a country can communicate, co-exist and understand each other.
There must never be any claim of superiority or the deliberate despising of other tribes. One tribe’s prominence over another may merely be a function of demographics and the resultant ease of adoption. But never must this be a factor that divides our people. Our common heritage and nationality is far bigger than any individual’s tongue. Nothing can ever make you nor I superior than another because ultimately we have the same claim. We are Zambian.
The freedom we now enjoy to express ourselves must be a celebration of our diversity. Not an outlet for pettiness and absurdity. So this freedom must never at any point be abused or used unwisely.
This responsibility lies not only with us individuals on every sideline but also our leaders. Most importantly, we also have the media, a key pillar in any nation’s development. We need to witness more maturity in editorial policy with a sustained pursuit of unity and decency over tribalism and exclusion.
A nation of christians or children of the devil?
So much has been said and claimed about our status as a christian nation. Many are the professions we hear about our godliness. But in the end, our deeds carry more weight than our spoken word. Everyone yearns to be associated with the good, straight and clean.
However, what we see and hear in our beloved nation shows a deep wrong that must be fought and defeated before it tears our nation apart. We are one people and if we are, love and unity must prevail at all costs.
But when we let careless tribal talk define who we will get along with, we are doomed. Our children may inherit a rotten perception and understanding of what it is to be Zambian. I pray and hope the technology that we embrace today will spare future generations the curse of tribalism. By uniting all across tribe, race and all things we do not consciously choose.
Our behavior and sentiment in some circles currently is far from anything christian or godly. We cannot want to praise God and be associated with Him yet create barriers between us and our fellow citizens. That behavior is devilish and a far cry from the standard expected of any so called christian.
So the next time your disposition is inclined to go tribal, determine within yourself whether you are being more of the devil’s child than God’s.
We are bigger than tribe
In the end, we must know what matters the most for ourselves, our nation and our children. This is key so that each time we are tempted to go tribal, we will know it is the way of those against progress, unity and development.
Let us not take for granted this peace we now enjoy and the unity we have swam in almost all our lives. Maybe we have lived in this state so long that we now attach a very low price to our unity and peace. We must only observe around us how countries have taken the wrong unwanted path and ended up in flames. We ought to know better.
Ultimately, it does not matter where I come from or what language I speak. What is more important is that I am Zambian and so are you. Therefore you and I must take a look deep within ourselves to check whether our tribal bias is deep rooted and historical or a mere fruit of an adopted and prejudicial mindset.
Then we can confront this despicable evil and suck the life out it’s soul. Because whichever way one looks at it, tribalism is for the small mind and deserves no place among us.
The next time you see the image of the freedom statue or walk past it, remember the blood shed for us to enjoy our peace and unity.
Then you will realise and know that we are One Zambia and One Nation.