Analysis: OLIVER NZALA
THE common saying that “a fruit never falls far from the tree” is a reflection of Zambia’s rooted national values that seek to promote benefits for all mankind.
Such values have been factors of peace in the southern African region, most importantly due to the role that Zambia has played in sustaining peace and security.
This has had an effect on her neighbouring countries with relative peace and security enjoyed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), though there is time to make history and close the chapter of conflict in that country.
Zambia’s peace and humanitarian diplomacy dates back to the struggle for liberation of its neighbouring countries and the rest of Africa.
Former President Kenneth Kaunda saw it befitting that Zambia could only sustainably enjoy independence and pursue development if other countries attained self-rule.
This virtue was passed on to other past presidents of Zambia by ensuring that other countries are economically and politically emancipated. It is not surprising that Zambia is a beacon of peace and security in Africa.
This stature of peace and security couldn’t have been set straight without the meeting of President Edgar Lungu and the leader of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND), Hakainde Hichilema.
The meeting was a clear-cut example of how national and regional peace can be sustained domestically.
In Zambia alone, the meeting has put an end to calls for dialogue because the perfect message was sent across the country and the mud-slinging between cadres and officials of the two political parties has toned down.
This is not to underscore the efforts of the Commonwealth peace envoy and the Zambia Centre for Intra Party Dialogue (ZCID) but the solution to peace and dialogue was found when no one expected it.
This, in particular, demonstrates why Zambia was chosen to head the SADC Organ on Peace, Defence and Security (OPDS) for a year.
It has also, bestowed with the chairmanship of the African Union Peace and Security Council in August, 2018.
Whilst there is no room to take things for granted, Zambians have made it a point by learning from the experiences of other countries that amidst all other challenges, peace is the foremost national value.
This value is also expressed in Zambia’s foreign policy by supporting institutions and efforts aimed at finding lasting solutions to conflicts in order to provide national, regional and international peace and security.
It would be no surprise if Zambians did not have the slightest idea of what role the country plays in peace and humanitarian diplomacy.
Besides being peaceful and with a good business environment, Zambia has thousands of refugees, the larger percentage from the DRC.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that Zambia now faces a humanitarian crisis, with thousands in need of assistance.
On the other hand, UNHCR has commended the Zambian government for being exemplary in its obligations towards refugees considering that by end of December 2018, Zambia is expected to host more than 76,000 refugees from the DRC.
It is also important to note that there are more thousands of refugees of different categories in different neighbouring countries.
On December 23, 2018, the DRC is expected to hold presidential, legislative and provincial elections to choose a successor to the current President, Joseph Kabila.
It is gratifying to note that as head of the SADC OPDS, President Lungu has been proactive in the quest for peace in the region.
Lesotho and Madagascar have received his support through SADC, and the DRC has this opportunity of peace and security.
Former Chief Justice Ernest Sakala has been sent to the DRC as Head of the SADC Election Observer Mission (SEOM) to ensure that DRC does not only hold free and fair elections, but be reminded that the region wishes them peace and stability for growth.
Going by history, the elections in the DRC will stand to be the biggest test for the head of the OPDS because several efforts to restore peace and stability have been made previously but the results have been dreary. It will be interesting to see how President Lungu, with the help of other heads of state, will maintain his perfect record so far.
Any instability in DRC has always affected Zambia and the region socially, politically and economically, and it is only prudent that in order to achieve regional integration as pursued by COMESA and SADC, peace has to be there in the region. The DRC happens to be important in this process of regional integration.
Zambia has over the years exhibited one of the best peace and humanitarian diplomacy which puts the country in a position to assume more responsibilities on the continent.
President Lungu’s decision-making has proved pivotal in maintaining peace and security in the region so far and all eyes will be on him to see what happens to the DRC, a country that retains its national sovereignty.
The author is a Master of International Relations and Development student at Mulungushi University.
Analysis: OLIVER NZALA