Southern African Center for Constructive Resolution of Disputes – SACCORD Executive Director Boniface Cheembe notes that from 2016 to 2021, Zambia was in a very serious state of conflict.
Mr Cheembe disclosed that in 2021 Zambia slipped from being the 41st most peaceful country in the world to the 71st most peaceful country in the world from 2020 to 2021, as this happened within a short period of time.
“In the same period, Zambia slipped from being the 4th most peaceful country in Sub saharan Africa to the 13th most peaceful country in sub saharan Africa, this was within a period of 2020 to 2021, and that goes to show that peace is very precarious if you don’t invest right, if you don’t incorrectly especially in conflict prevention measures, you are likely to experience a deterioration of peace and you are likely to see a reduced levels of peace in a country, ” Mr Cheembe explained
Speaking on HOT FM Hot Seat Programme today, Mr Cheembe said that looking at the extent to which people have been able to attend to issues of trauma, in terms of violent manifestations of conflict as evidence by acts of political violence in the country, one of the effects of that violence is trauma, thus, having a country that has got fairly high levels of trauma on accounts of political violence and there has been literally little work done to address this trauma.
“This trauma has got its own effects, if you don’t attend to trauma it leads to what we call the victim perpetrator cycle, where those who were once victims of acts of political violence when they are in a cycle stronger state compared to their counterparts they become perpetrators of political violence, and this happens when theres no investment in dealing with issues of trauma in a given country, this is why when acts of political violence are reported they are always alleged that the ruling party has done it,” he mentioned
He cited that Zambia has now become a serious victim in terms of lack of investment in conflict prevention, peace building because of the perception that Zambia is an oasis of peace, and the results are all there to see, adding that the detoriation in the levels of peacefulness are clearly indicated in terms of the global peace index GPI statistics from 2020 to 2021 when within a very short period of time, the quality of peace in the country was lost.
“The most worrying thing is that from 1964 to date, where we have done literally nothing to address issues of trauma and if we continue to do nothing to we will continue to see the victim perpetrator cycle and we will also continue to see what ws may call revenge acts depending on who is in power and who is out of power” he said
Mr Cheembe explained that following the 2016 General Elections and the tension that resulted from, especially over a petition that was never heard, is that there was a clear identification that the Constitution of the Republic of Zambia was a very serious source of conflict and that something needed to be done to it, adding that shortly after the 2016 General elections, unfortunately there was a traffic offence incidence where the biggest opposition party leader who is now the Republican President was arrested and within that period discussions had started for the Constitution to be amended which was seen as a fundamental basis and source of conflict and tension for the nation.
“After the arrest was made, all of us went into advocacy by stating that this is creating further tension in the country, and its dividing the country and if anything was to happen to this leading leader who has been arrested, Zambia will be in serious problems, and we called for dialogue and upon calling for dialogue we requested that he is released and there efforts that where made as externals came in (the commonwealth) and eventually the UPND leader was released, and after he was released, we continued to engage into consultations interms of what more could be done to address the difficulties that this country was going through,” he further explained
He highlighted that broadly speaking, issues of legal reforms where identified, so the Constitution, the Public Order Act, civility in the politics, taking into consideration issues of violent communication kind of language that was used, so that they don’t deal with just the physical aspect of issues violence but also deal with the structural and also the intangibles tend to contribute towards acts of political violence in this country.
He further highlighted that issues where clearly identified, discussions in terms of what form or modalities can be used to address these issues and ensure that they bring about the peace and unity that they want to have in the nation, and this task was given to the commonwealth who drove a process and SACCORD was part of that process behind closed doors and SACCORD was consulted on every step that should be undertaken, and in SACCORD’s view, this was executed very well.
“Troubles came in interms of the two biggest political parties, where who should lead the process is concerned, on the part of the then ruling party the Patriotic Front (PF) there was some discomfort with the commonwealth as external entity leading the process and they thought that bringing them into the picture the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue would be helpful, and the UPND on the other hand where comfortable with the commonwealth by saying look we would be even further comfortable with having the church lead the process and they where abit uncomfortable with the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue, so, the issue was who should lead the process, in principle both the PF and UPND and indeed more stakeholders in our governance process where agreeable that we should dialogue and that we should address the fundamental sources of conflict in our country, there was no dispute about that,” Mr Cheembe disclosed