Tackling Tribalism and Regionalism: Government Responses and Oversight

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Many of us have proudly echoed the slogan “One Zambia, One Nation” in various settings without deeply considering its origins. This mantra emerged post-Independence from British colonial rule, coined by our forefathers, particularly the first Republican President, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, and his associates. However, the circumstances prompting the creation of this unifying phrase often remain unquestioned.

With a tapestry of 73 tribal or ethnic groups, Zambia holds a diverse cultural landscape. This diversity immediately posed challenges for the new government after Independence. Ethnic tensions, brewing for months before Independence, swiftly manifested, threatening to fracture the nascent nation. The breaking point climaxed during the United National Independence Party (UNIP) national council gathering in Chilenje, Lusaka, in early February 1968.

The atmosphere was charged as delegates segregated themselves along ethnic and regional lines. Open quarrels and insults ensued, shocking Kaunda, who quietly observed from the podium. Eventually, overwhelmed by the disgraceful tribalism, Kaunda announced his resignation and stormed out.

The delegates, stunned by Kaunda’s decision, witnessed a concerted effort by military leaders, religious figures, and close confidants persuading Kaunda to reconsider. Amidst this turmoil, Kaunda faced the formidable challenge of unifying the nation post-Independence. The creation of the “One Zambia; One Nation” motto was a deliberate effort by Kaunda and his colleagues to foster national unity and pave the way for a more prosperous Zambia.

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