Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
THE Zambia Army celebrates Army Day on December 28 every year to commemorate the day an indigenous Zambian military officer took command of the army.
General Kingsley Chinkuli took over as the first indigenous Zambia Army Commander on December 28, 1970.
After independence on October 24, 1964, the Zambia Army continued being commanded by expatriate officers. Maj Gen MC Grigg was Army Commander from 1964 to 1967, and was succeeded by Maj Gen TS Reids, who commanded the Army up to December 1970.
Since command changed hands from the British to indigenous Zambians, the Army has achieved several milestones.
Immediately after Gen. Chinkuli took over, the Army went straight into defending the country during the liberation wars of the 1970s and 1980s that saw most of our neighbouring countries gain independence.
The Army has over the years expanded and modernised to its current establishment with three infantry brigades, seven regional headquarters, and more than 100 units and formations across the country.
In its 48 years of existence under the command of indigenous Zambian officers, the Army has effectively restored law and order in areas where internal security and peace were threatened, including quelling the Mushala rebellion, which lasted from 1975 to 1982.
Mushala was gunned down on November 26, 1982.
In the late 80s, the Army successfully suppressed the widespread riots that rocked the country following food shortages.
It also thwarted the coup attempt by Lieutenant Mwamba Luchembe on June 30, 1990.
On October 29, 1997, the Zambia Army again foiled a coup attempt by Captain Steven Lungu and other dissident soldiers.
In 2013, the Zambia Army ended the long hunt for the Mailoni brothers – Fabian, Mika and Stefan – who had caused terror by killing about 12 people in Luano Valley of Mkushi district.
The Mailoni brothers’ eight-year terror came to an end when the Army gunned down all the trio in June 2013.
The Army has continued to fulfil its roles which include: to defend the territorial integrity of the country from both external and internal aggression; to restore law and order in areas where internal security is threatened; to come to the aid of the civil authorities when called upon; and to contribute troops for United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) operations when called upon.
In the aspect of aiding civil authorities when called upon, the Army, now under Lieutenant-General Paul Mihova, has stood tall in combating cholera outbreaks and stopping the illegal harvesting, transportation and exportation of endangered forestry species such as mukula logs.
The Army has participated in a number of UN peacekeeping and observer missions around the globe from the late 80s to date, and through this involvement, it has contributed in restoring peace and security in areas where there has been unrest.
Over the years, the Army has also employed its discipline and professionalism in economic activities to contribute to the nation’s economy, realising that security is all-encompassing and that soldiering does not limit their engagement with a traditional enemy only.
The Army has re-established its farms and acquired more than 20,000 hectares of land so as to escalate agricultural activities and significantly contribute to the national food basket.
The troops are now engaged in cattle ranching, crop and vegetable production and fish farming, all aimed at enhancing self-sustenance within its ranks and to contribute to economic growth of the country.
The Army has also undertaken a number of income-generating activities such as the construction of an entertainment park in Lusaka and the construction of ultra-modern banquet halls in Lusaka and Copperbelt provinces for hiring out at a fee.
In the social sector, the Army has continued to lead in sports activities.
It supports more than 50 sports clubs from different units. The senior football club, Green Buffaloes, are participating in the MTN Super Division.
As part of the activities to mark the Army Day, which falls today, officers will engage in various sports activities.
Apart from sports activities, the Army has lined up a special exhibition of World War One and Two, free medical screening by the military health practitioners, entertainment by the Army’s cultural ensemble, a pop band and the Orchestra Band.
Other activities include the cleaning exercise in selected places of Lusaka in support of the ‘Make Zambia clean, green and healthy’ campaign.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.
Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO