columnBy Sycorax Ndhlovu
AS Zambia joins the rest of the world in commemorating the World Refugee Day which falls today there is need to reflect on why other people in other countries have fled their home countries to become refugees in other foreign lands; and consider the importance of sustaining peace and political stability Zambia has been enjoying for many years.
Zambia has been a haven of peace for many years.
It is because of the sustained peace through effective, selfless and peace-loving political leadership and the role of faith-based organisations (FBOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) that Zambia has been peaceful since political independence in 1964.
But with the advent of multi-party politics, Zambia has seen some levels of political intolerance, a chain of political violence; especially using youths in many general and by-elections.
This breeds concern and discomfort in many peace-loving Zambians; as this might bring civil strife and bloodshed that has taken place in other countries.
The theme for year's World Refugee Day is 'One refugee without hope is one too many working towards a new life'.
What is critical in one's mind is how do our different political leaders in various political parties and all Zambians translate or interprete such a theme?
We need to have a new approach in the way we handle our political differences. Let's promote peace and political stability in our political campaigns.
Our current political leaders should be aware that peace is not a free gift from God.
Peace is earned through proper management of socio-cultural, economic, legal and political issues and differences that arise in a given country.
Mishandling any political differences can lead to untold misery among groups of people.
This is why Zambia has been hosting refugees for many years because citizens and political parties in other countries mishandled their political differences; instead of resolving them amicably through peaceful dialogue channels.
A good example in Zambia is that the first Republican president, Kenneth Kaunda in 1991 succumbed to political pressure for Zambia to transform to multi-party politics; and Dr Kaunda repealed article four of the Republican Constitution to allow for such kind of politics to prevail.
Despite Dr Kaunda having had authority to ignore such demands; and punish group leaders behind such a pressure for multi-party politics, he allowed multi-party politics to flourish.
This in a way averted potential political conflicts that would have led to civil war or bloodshed in Zambia.
Dr Kaunda demonstrated that peace in Zambia was more important than continued political leadership of one person and his or her political party.
Dr Kaunda was patriotic to Zambia; and not to his political party: United National Independence Party (UNIP).
He provided exemplary leadership in many spheres of human endeavours as a president of a political party and a Republican president.
We have been hearing and seeing in the news media political violence between MMD and United Party for National Development (UPND) cadres.
We have also learnt and seen in the Press that there have been political violence between UPND and Patriotic Front (PF) cadres.
In the past, we lost some lives in some provinces as a result of these political violence.
Even now in by-elections, we learn of serious political violence between UPND and PF.
One wonders who stirs such political violence. Is it youths in these political parties or is it their leadership who hire and engineer youths to be violent during political elections?
Political violence is a sign of selfishness, greediness and stubbornness among some political leaders who don't want to accommodate divergent views or want only their views only to prevail in governance.
Whatever the case may be, political leaders and the youths they use should know that Zambians are too weak and inexperienced to run away from political violence and civil strife.
Zambians; especially women and children don't know any destination to run to in case of civil war in this country.
As the English saying goes: Prevention is better than cure. Henry Kissinger once said: "An issue ignored; is a crisis ensured."
The current political violence if allowed to continue might lead to untold misery among many Zambians.
It will be embarrassing and difficult for Zambians who have been perceived as consultants in struggle for political independence, peace keeping and conflict resolutions to start asking for political asylum or refugee status in neighbouring countries just because some political leaders want to be in their offices or because one wants to go to State House at all costs.
If one has been in a refugee camp before, one can realise the importance of resolving national issues through dialogue and peacefully means.
Civil wars or political conflicts leave people: men, women and children physically handicapped through loss of parts of their bodies.
When one is born physically handicapped, one can understand; but not being handicapped as a result of the selfishness of a few political individuals who didn't want to resolve political differences peacefully.
Such is painful.
Zambians and political leaders should identify causes of political violence in our country.
Selfishness, greediness and political intolerance to divergent views are among major causes of political violence.
In short, people who are selfish don't understand the importance of democracy and are therefore, not patriotic to our country.
Such political leaders and their supporters are a threat to peace and political stability of a country.
A peace loving politician cannot distribute alcohol to youths during political campaigns.
Political party leadership that appreciates peace and political stability cannot be distributing beer to electorates, buying voter cards and dishing out money or other things to voters during political campaigns.
A political leader and a political party that promotes political violence in any form should be regarded as an enemy of the people of Zambia as such a person and his or her political party don't want the peace and stability that Zambia has enjoyed for many years to be sustained.
Democracy flourishes in multi-party and plural politics through accommodating divergent and opposing views.
Democracy promotes divergent and opposition views from all sections of society to be at play; and in the process resolve issues peacefully.
Harassing those who have different political views is a sign of ignorance of how democracy works, practicing ancient and barbaric politics.
Anyone involved in political violence is an enemy of democracy and peace that Zambians have been and want to continue enjoying.
It is against this background that political leaders involved in political violence should refrain from doing so henceforth. Let 2013 World Refugee Day bring a new wave of life for our attitude against political violence.
All Zambians should keep an eye on all political leaders and see who engineers political violence and why.
Any political party and its leaders who instigate political violence should be avoided by voting for peaceful political candidates and their political parties.
Don't consider the gifts they dish out to Zambians and the country as a whole cannot afford to experience bloodshed just because of a few selfish and greedy political leaders and their hired cadres.
Electoral disputes are the main cause of political conflicts that sometimes drift into civil wars anywhere in the world.
Civil wars make some citizens lose parts of their bodies; and run away from their home countries and seek refuge in foreign countries like Zambia.
It is in this light that one expects all political leaders in all political parties such as ruling party, MMD, UPN and many other opposition political parties to genuinely denounce political violence; and punish their members found involved in political violence.
We should thank God that civil war hasn't erupted in our country.
But this doesn't mean that we should take things for granted with the way we manage national issues just because Zambia has been peaceful and politically stable since political independence in 1964.
Some colleagues of foreign nationals living in Zambia as refugees who are reluctant to go back to their now peaceful and stable countries might still be remembering the atrocities that occurred in their home countries for them to flee their country.
This is why some seem to be reluctant to go back to their home countries.
Let's learn a lesson from what happened to other citizens in other countries.
The influx of refugees Zambia has been receiving is a product of mismanaging political differences in a country.
The fact that Zambia has been receiving a lot of refugees from neighbouring countries means that we have, to some extent, been managing our political conflicts peacefully.
Let's continue such approach in managing our political views and conflicts. For our refugee colleagues going back to their home countries, we wish them peaceful and happy new life.