May 24, 2010

Are we really free?

April 15, 1958 was declared to be Africa Freedom Day at the First Conference of Independent States convened in Accra, Ghana. This was “to mark each year the onward progress of the liberation movement, and to symbolize the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation”.

The date was later changed to coincide with the birth of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) - May 25.

I get goose bumps when I remember the reverent tones of my grade 4 teacher, Mrs. Mwape, telling us about the significance of this day. The conscious struggle against oppression and the emergence of a liberated Africa (with the exception of Namibia and South Africa at the time) – this was powerful stuff!

So, here we are 52 years later focusing on this year’s theme “Peace and Security in Africa”. What does this all mean aside from a day off work or the chance to eat and drink at your local embassy?

On this day we traditionally celebrate freedom from colonial oppression and racial discrimination but what about other freedoms? Can we claim true freedom without enforceable economic and social freedoms?


Zambia is generally a peaceful country and has not been marred by war, political or insurrections unlike some of our neighbours, but in last month’s by-elections in Mufumbwe, there was violence and intimidation of voters perpetrated by thugs shielded by both the ruling party and the opposition. This is a slippery slope, and flies in the face of what we stand for as Zambians. What happened to the freedom to choose the representative of your choosing in an election?


Many Zambians are deprived basic rights: access to basic healthcare, safe water, decent housing, basic education, and employment.

A woman and her children still face a high probability of losing their home and livelihood with the death of a husband and father.

In the face of such realities, security for many is an illusion. It’s an endless struggle, and one that claimed the lives of many.

So, as we honour the works of the great freedom fighters let us not forget that the job is only half done. We still have oppression, and exploitation. The enemy is not an invader this time; it is us – us with our poor institutions, our negligent leaders, and our lack of safety nets for the most vulnerable in the community.

We will not taste true freedom until we liberate ourselves from the quagmire of poverty and social injustice. 


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