Fri 08 Jan. 2010, 04:01 CAT
“The year 2009 can be safely dubbed as the quarrelsome year; in this regard, Zambians have been very productive. It has been a traumatic journey; a year when we seem to have been going somewhere and yet not going anywhere!
This is a year when there has been too much government and too much rule by threats…All the talk about reconciliation only takes place when leaders are attending a church gathering where those they must reconcile with are neither present nor even listening; such messages are intended to impress the audience and may not be a serious call for reconciliation…let the new year be our turning point for turning back to decent politics and for all of us to change our ways and depart from the culture of intimidation, hatred, deception, violence and vulgar debates.
In the new year, we pray for a change of culture and for an atmosphere that will be devoid of political fantasies intended to deceive and discourage citizens from demanding accountability, especially from those in authority. Zambia is indeed on the verge of becoming a totalitarian state…the President must steer clear of media regulation by the government because it will not achieve what its advocates think it will achieve. Instead of spending a lot of energy trying to muzzle the media, government must urgently resolve the issue of access to the public media. It is imperative that Zambians get to hear various views for and against issues, to assist them really understand what is at stake.
This way, they may arrive at informed opinion on any important national issue…let us remember that politics is not only about getting votes at all costs. It is also about building our young nation that has been struggling to find its feet for over 40 years and about educating the less fortunate of our followers who believe in us and not taking advantage of their lack of knowledge. Let us raise the standard and quality of debate.” This is an extract from Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda’s reflections on the year 2009 and the new year that we have just entered – 2010.
Brig Gen Miyanda has made very important observations that require deep meditation from all of us. It doesn’t matter whether one likes him or not; or whether one agrees with him or disagrees, we should all seriously think about what he has said because these are matters that we cannot afford to ignore if we have to harbour any hope of a peaceful and prosperous life in this country.
Brig Gen Miyanda has joined many others who have been talking about the need for reconciliation in our country. But what do we mean by reconciliation? The simplest description of reconciliation that we can give starts from a situation in which one person dislikes another or feels anger, resentment or hatred against that person, or both feel this way about each other.
Reconciliation occurs when the bad feeling is overcome, and the two people become friendly. We should have no difficulty understanding such situations, we have all experienced them. The position is much more complicated and much more serious when the bad feeling is not merely between one person and another, but between one group – however that group is defined – and another.
The long history of mankind is full of stories of such bad feelings between groups of people – be they communities, tribes, nations, people of different religions, people of different political affiliations and so on and so forth. These frequently have led to greater animosities and hatreds, conflicts and even revolutions. We cannot deny the fact that we find it hard to like people who belong to a different group from ours. We are more tempted to fight them.
Yet we cannot live without belonging to a group, however that group is defined. Enmity between groups is one of the worst examples of human sinfulness. Group spirit is one of the greatest blessings of humanity. But when it turns into a spirit of enmity against other groups, political or otherwise, it is one of the greatest evils.
A disastrous aspect of this evil is that it blinds us, it prevents us from seeing the evil in ourselves. We belong to our group as a drop of water belongs to the river, as a grain of sand belongs to the earth, as a breath of air belongs to the atmosphere. We see with the eyes it gives us. We hear with the ears it gives us. Its spirit is our spirit. Its life is our life. Whatever good is in it is in us. Whatever evil is in it is in us also. That is why we find it so hard to see the evil. As with our individual failings, others see them much more quickly and clearly than we do.
We may never see them. One of the greatest tragedies of the human race is that groups hardly ever see and admit their own failings. They do not want to see them. They prefer to remain blind to one another without apparently any qualms of conscience. As long as this goes on, reconciliation is impossible. The group that is hurting the other sees no need to change; and the group that is being hurt gets more and more resentful until its resentment bursts out into open conflict.
Clearly, reconciliation is not possible without a genuine repentance of evil. Unity and peace demand that all of us as Zambians be reconciled with one another. We must work for reconciliation. We would like to point out that when people are kept well informed, and truthfully so, then harmful talk cannot succeed. The radio, television, newspapers and magazines must all be at the service of truth and justice. When the media are used for other purposes, trust disappears and lies, deceit, manipulation, calumny flourish. Unity is broken.
The demands of unity require justice for those who have been wronged as well as punishment for wrongdoers, for those who have stolen public funds. But at the same time, those who feel they have suffered any injustice must not forget the virtue of mercy. A genuine reconciliation would only emerge against the background of the integration of mercy and justice as well as of truth and charity.
And the realisation of the enjoyment of the right to peace requires the commitment of all the citizens to dialogue and to eliminate everything that leads to conflict. We know that intolerance, corruption and other abuses lead to conflict. A complete conversion of heart and a thorough reform of society are needed and must be attempted soon. The use of intimidation or physical violence will achieve nothing permanent and good. Zambia can be served only by a genuine revolution of love, by violence to our selfish interests.
As we approach 2011, the year of our next presidential and general elections, we must express concern regarding the frequent instances of intolerance, intimidation and lust for power. We need to remember the lesson: “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
In the present atmosphere of fierce competition and character assassination, we remind the nation of the noble goals of political activity. From a Christian point of view – since we have decreed this country a Christian nation – politics aims at the promotion of the common good and the service of all the people. We read in the scriptures that “The Son of Man himself came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:42). There is an urgent need for understanding dialogue and reconciliation.
We are aware that reconciliation is a long and difficult process. We are also aware of the obstacles and difficulties set upon this road, the road of reconciliation. The process of reconciliation involves the seeking of truth that ensures sincere and lasting forgiveness. It also presupposes justice. As Pope John Paul II once observed: “There is no contradiction between forgiveness and justice. Forgiveness neither eliminates nor lessens the need for reparation which justice requires.”
And we should not be easily enticed to read reconciliation and fairness as meaning parity between justice and injustice. Justice must be embraced while injustice must be fought. There can be no peace and reconciliation where there is no justice. It’s meaningless to talk about peace without talking about justice.
Emphasising peace without trying to anchor it on justice will simply lead to totalitarianism, tyranny and straitjacket. We should never forget that no one in politics starts with a declaration that they are going to be dictators, tyrannical leaders. Not even Hitler did so. All start from a premise of being good and democratic leaders but some of them end up totalitarian and tyrannical governments.
And as Brig Gen Miyanda has correctly observed, informed public opinion is the most potent of all restraints upon misgovernment. And for this reason, any attempts by the government to muzzle the media through statutory regulation or otherwise cannot be regarded otherwise than with grave concern. Again, we call on all of you, on all our readers to meditate deeply over what Brig Gen Miyanda has said. You don’t need to agree with him. All we are asking you is to reflect deeply on the issues he has raised in his year-end message to the people of Zambia. Read it and reflect on it.
Labels: GODFREY MIYANDA