Analysis: EMELDA MUSONDA
AFTER Zambia gained independence in 1964, the first republican President Dr Kenneth Kaunda realised the need to forge 72 disparate ethnic groups into a united nation whose citizens would identify as Zambians.
A number of policies and tools aimed at building national unity were established for instance the popular slogan â€œOne Zambia, One Nationâ€ which was aimed at emphasising the importance of unity.
In his attempt to promote national unity President Kaunda ensured an ethnically balanced cabinet. The intent was to provide Zambiaâ€™s various ethnic groups with representation and hence a stake in the new nation that was being forged.
The Government further created employment opportunities in urban areas especially the mining towns which became a magnet for Zambians from across the country thereby facilitating multicultural interactions. By the 1990s almost half of all Zambians lived in urban areas with equal opportunities to employment.
Apart from tertiary training, Zambia also adopted a boarding school system for grades 7-12. This system brought together children from all ethnic groups to live and learn together for nine months of the year.
Along with English and social studies, several Zambian languages also became major components of school curricula, enabling Zambians to learn about and to communicate with each other.
As a result of living together, interacting in the towns and cities, and going to school together, the average Zambian speaks at least three languages.
It cannot be disputed, that above measures played a major role in uniting Zambians for the past five decades, by providing a platform for interaction among ethnic groups.
However inter-marriages which were mainly facilitated by access to education, training and employment opportunities for young people of all ethnic backgrounds is what really nailed the coffin of tribalism.
It is therefore shocking that after 51 years of inter-marriages, a Zambian citizen can audaciously make reference to tribe with intentions of drawing lines of segregation.
The recent political events, where tribal talk has taken centre stage is indeed perturbing. This is because today so many Zambians trace their family heritage to more than one Zambian ethnic group due to inter-marriages. Needless to say there are so may Zambians living beyond their ethnic boundaries.
Given the prevalence of inter-marriages in our country today one does not need to be a social scientist to recognise how deeply intertwined we are as a nation.
For instance, this author is a combined breed of Lozi and Lenje and married to a Bemba. One of the authorâ€™s brothers is married to an Easterner while another to a Tonga.
This scenario is shared by so many Zambians whose family tree is characterised by more than one ethnic group.
So really, at what point can one raise a finger to injure a particular tribe without hurting his or her own relatives.
For instance, this author cannot throw a stone at Bembas without injuring her own children and husband. Similarly, cannot injure Easterners or Tongas without hurting her nieces and nephews.
This therefore goes on to show that with a rooted culture of inter-marriages tribal barriers no longer exist except in the heads of disenchanted individuals.
The Bible emphasises the strong bond of marriage by stating in Mark 10:7-8, â€œFor this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.â€™ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.
Apart from uniting individualsâ€™ inter-marriages also bond families and ethnic groups.
Actually, sociologists indicate that inter-marriage is one of the most definitive measures of dissolving social and cultural barriers â€“ and thereby creating social and cultural integration. This is because inter-marriages bond together people of two different ethnicities.
Early studies of inter-ethnic marriage in the United States of America considered it an important element in the â€˜melting potâ€™ theory of assimilation.
In 1982, Australian demographer Charles Price wrote that â€˜inter-marriage is still the best measure of ethnic inter-mixture because it breaks down ethnic exclusiveness and mixes the various ethnic populations more effectively than any other social processâ€™.
In the case of an inter-marriage, partners, although coming from different ethnic, social or cultural backgrounds overcome barriers, by building their love on shared aspirations and values, respect and tolerance.
Inter-ethnic marriages further affect social and cultural identities of the next generations, who become multiethnic.
As we stand today, tribe does not qualify to be used as a means of identifying oneâ€™s cultural heritage because many Zambians are what I would call a â€˜cocktail of tribesâ€™ as a result of an entrenched culture of intermarriages.
It is therefore in the interest of â€œOne Zambia, One nationâ€ to embrace a national identity.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.
Tribal barriers no longer exist
Analysis: EMELDA MUSONDA