Zambia, a country known for its unity and the vision of “One Zambia, One Nation,” has recently undergone a historic presidential transition. In August 2021, Hakainde Hichilema was elected as Zambia’s seventh president, defeating the incumbent President Edgar Lungu. However, the transition of power was not without controversy and concerns about the preservation of Zambia’s cherished unity. Kenneth Kaunda, the founding father of the nation, had expressed deep apprehensions about Hichilema’s leadership and his potential impact on the ideal of “One Zambia, One Nation.”
The Vision of “One Zambia, One Nation”
“One Zambia, One Nation” is a foundational concept in Zambia’s national identity. It was coined by Kenneth Kaunda during the struggle for independence from British colonial rule and the formation of the Republic of Zambia in 1964. This vision emphasizes national unity and cohesion, transcending ethnic, regional, and tribal divides that have historically caused strife in African nations.
Kenneth Kaunda, who served as Zambia’s first president for 27 years, is widely regarded as a unifying figure who championed this ideal. He advocated for peaceful coexistence among Zambia’s diverse ethnic groups, which include the Bemba, Tonga, Nyanja, Lozi, and many others. Kaunda’s leadership was characterized by efforts to promote a strong sense of Zambian nationalism.
Kaunda’s Concerns About Hichilema
In the lead-up to the 2021 presidential election, Kenneth Kaunda, who passed away in June 2021, expressed concerns about the potential consequences of a Hakainde Hichilema presidency. Hichilema, a wealthy businessman and opposition leader, won the election with a significant margin, signaling a desire for change among Zambian voters.
Kaunda, in interviews and public statements, questioned whether Hichilema’s leadership style and political agenda would uphold the values of “One Zambia, One Nation.” He raised concerns about possible divisions within the country, given Hichilema’s previous electoral defeats and the polarized political landscape in Zambia.
KK ON HIS FEAR THAT HH WOULD DESTROY THE IDEAL OF "ONE ZAMBIA ONE NATION: "Up to this point in time, I have not come across a single man in politics who is today thinking of splitting Zambia; apart from this man…in southern Province…he decided to do that I think, but he… pic.twitter.com/AwTsvSjLWp
— Prof Jonathan Moyo (@ProfJNMoyo) September 14, 2023
It is essential to note that Kaunda’s apprehensions were based on his desire to protect the unity he had worked so hard to foster. He was not opposed to democratic transitions but feared that the bitter political rivalries and tribal tensions that sometimes characterize Zambian politics could undermine the nation’s unity.
Hichilema’s Commitment to Unity
In response to these concerns, President Hakainde Hichilema has repeatedly emphasized his commitment to unity and reconciliation. He has pledged to govern for all Zambians, regardless of their political affiliations or ethnic backgrounds. Hichilema has also acknowledged the importance of preserving the legacy of “One Zambia, One Nation” and has expressed his intention to work toward national healing and cohesion.
The transition of power from Edgar Lungu to Hakainde Hichilema marked a significant moment in Zambia’s history. While concerns were raised by Kenneth Kaunda and others about the potential impact on the ideal of “One Zambia, One Nation,” it is important to recognize that democracy and peaceful transitions of power are fundamental to Zambia’s political culture.
President Hichilema now faces the critical task of living up to his commitment to unity and healing, ensuring that Zambia remains a beacon of harmony in a region that has experienced its share of conflicts. The legacy of Kenneth Kaunda’s vision for “One Zambia, One Nation” serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving national unity in a diverse and vibrant country like Zambia. Time will tell whether President Hichilema can uphold this cherished ideal and guide Zambia towards a brighter future.