Editor's Comment

Refugee crisis needs permanent solution

CHIENGE district commissioner Davis Kasongole addresses Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) refugees at Ponde Secondary School recently.

THE best way in which to solve any problem is to nip it in the bud. Before a concern gets out of hand, it must be managed and normalcy restored.

This is so for the seemingly never ending challenge of refugees around the world, including in Africa, and particularly so in Zambia, which has for decades been a haven for thousands of asylum seekers.
Just when it looked like the pressure of hosting these migrants was easing off, Zambia is yet again faced with the responsibility of taking care of those in need of shelter. Renewed conflict in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has triggered the latest wave of thousands of desperate people into Zambia.
Like always, Zambia will host these refugees. Not only is it obliged to do so, but Zambians just have that rare accommodative spirit even for total strangers.
This is, however, putting a serious financial and social strain on Zambia. Even as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) steps forward to play its part in helping make the refugees as comfortable as possible, Zambia has to use its resources too to support these displaced people.
With an average of 500 refugees entering Zambia each day in recent weeks, it is clear that Zambia has a tough challenge on its hands. There is no doubt that these asylum seekers will be well taken care of but it will be at a cost.
This is a cost that is avoidable. The money that is being spent on sheltering, feeding and clothing the refugees could be spent on programmes that make their lives better in their home towns.
The solution for refugee crises lies in dealing with the causes of conflicts that trigger such desperate migrations. Surely, there is a peaceful solution for whatever challenge or disagreement people have.
Most of such crises are caused by the inability by stakeholders to use the platform of dialogue to resolve disagreements. Many tend to be impatient and are quick to try to solve challenges by force.
You can never solve a problem by force. It may seem to work for a while, but in reality that is just suppressing the challenge. Sooner or later, the problem will resurface, and sometimes with an even greater force.
Unfortunately, it is the innocent that suffer the most when force is used to try to resolve disagreements. Those who suffer the most are men, women and children who are nowhere near the decision-making offices and conference rooms, yet they take the full brunt of unwise decisions by militia groups.
The DRC is in such a situation. Military clashes in the towns of Moba and Pweto that have ignited this refugee crisis are not new. Military battles in these towns as well as Moliro have been on and off since the late 1990s.
Pweto and Moliro, which border Northern and Luapula provinces of Zambia, and Moba, which is a little further north have been points of conflict for a long time. Residents there have hardly known peace in the past two decades because of military conflicts such as what they are experiencing now.
Surely, this cannot be allowed to continue. What must be allowed is peace so that the denizens of these towns grow their families and develop their communities.
The United Nations, which has for long been trying to help restore and keep peace in this so-called ‘Triangle of Death’, should not tire in its efforts.
The international community, as President Lungu has said, should help address the causes that trigger this refugee crisis. This is what nipping the problem in the bud entails.
As this effort is being made, it is important to respect the sovereignty of the DRC and the need to help it find a solution that will embrace the expectations of most, if not all, stakeholders of this vast country.
The DRC, which is endowed with numerous minerals and other raw materials, is a wealthy country but unless there is peace in all corners of the nation, most of its citizens will not benefit from these riches.
Neighbouring countries and indeed the rest of the international community would also benefit more from the DRC if there is peace in every part of the country.
Zambia, as a good neighbour it has always been, will play its part, but the rest of the international community should also do a lot more to support this country.
For now, as a permanent solution is being sought, the international community should help Zambia take care of the DRC refugees streaming into the country. They, as Zambia is, are obliged to do so.

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