Refugee influx reminder to value peace

EMELDA Musonda.

AN American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist Warren Buffett said, “it’s good to learn from your mistakes. It’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes”.

And an American author Gina Greenlee said, “Experience is a master teacher, even when it’s not our own.”
The two great personalities point to the wisdom that lies in the ability to learn from other people’s experiences without going through them.
This certainly resonates with President Lungu’s message for the nation to draw lessons from the volatile situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which has led to an influx of refugees in the country.
Zambia is currently hosting about 6,000 asylum seekers from Congo who are running away from civil strife in that country.
According to UNHCR, over the past year, some 100,000 Congolese have fled to neighbouring countries as refugees.
UNHCR further estimates that since 2015 the number of people displaced internally in DRC has more than doubled and now stands at 3.9 million people with 428,000 of these having been displaced in the past three months alone.
With widespread militia activities, and unrest and violence fuelled by ethnic and political conflict affecting many areas, the risk of further displacement is said to be high.
UNHCR is now faced with the challenges of getting aid to people in need.
When one looks at refugees such as ones flocking in from DRC, it is difficult to imagine that these people were once comfortable and leading dignified lives.
Though in their current situation it may be difficult to tell, some of these refugees are qualified professionals in different fields.
Looking at the age groups among refugees, it is certain there are also those who were also pursuing studies at different levels and have had to abandon their missions.
Others had built successful business empires and acquired property such as houses and business premises which they had to abandon in pursuit of safety.
For most of them, as they flee from their war-torn country, all they have is their hand luggage, signifying their worth in the current state.
The civil strife has totally ripped them of all their achievements and dignity relegating them to destitution, with no option but to look to international agencies like the UNHCR and host countries for hand-outs.
What is even harder to bear for refugees is the emotional trauma due to the loss of their loved ones in the conflicts as well as during their transit to the place of safety or asylum.
President Lungu was in Nchelenge two days ago for an on-the-spot check on the refugee crisis at Kenani Transit Centre.
The anguish and hopelessness of these asylum seekers was certainly a strong reminder to the head of State on the importance of peace and how blessed Zambia is.
This is why he is calling on all Zambians to love one another and value the peace the country is enjoying.
It should not take Zambia to go through the experience of DRC and many other countries marred with civil strife to appreciate the peace we have enjoyed for five decades.
As the head of State rightly noted, Zambia is not immune to the volatile situation DRC is going through if citizens do not unite and work together for a common good.
From the experience of DRC, Zambia should draw lessons on the devastating effects of civil wars.
This calls for citizens and politicians in particular to put national interest first and season their talk with a pinch of salt. It has been established, especially in the case of the Rwanda genocide, that careless talk can spark war.
Now than ever before we have witnessed fierce rivalry among politicians in our country.
It is understood when politicians differ in ideologies but beyond that it becomes a threat to our much valued peace.
Our politicians in particular should take time to visit refugees in camps and ask themselves if they would ever wish that for any Zambian.
Politicians, in jostling for power, should be able to determine when their actions have become a danger to the same people they claim to want to serve.
The peace that we enjoy today did not come on a silver platter, but our forefathers dearly paid for it, some with their own lives.
From DRC’s case we can also deduce that no matter the amount of natural resources a country is endowed with, without peace, development remains an illusion.
For a country like ours which still has a long way to go in its development journey, we cannot afford to lose our peace. This is because peace is key to any development process.
Zambia currently hosts about 59,195 refugees and others of concern, mostly from Angola, the DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia and Uganda.
The vast majority reside in two refugee settlements – Mayukwayukwa in Western Province and Meheba in North-Western Province, while others live in urban areas or are self-settled in various parts of the country.
As long as we remain host to refugees, let this be a constant reminder of how jealously we need to guard our peace.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.

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