It is very important for leaders to mull over things before they commit themselves to deeds and actions. Leaders are called to be rational and their utterances must be measured, weighed against certain parameters to avoid inconsistency and any appearance of it.
We don’t think any rational human being can take the pronouncement by Edgar Lungu on respecting the human rights of people living in game management areas recently.
Hearing Edgar speak, during a plenary session at the African Union/United Nations Africa Wildlife Economy Summit, which was attended by President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe, Namibia’s Hage Geigob, Botswana’s Mokgweetsi Masisi and Angola’s foreign minister Paula Francesca, one would think he truly believes in what he talked about; good words from a pure humanist heart.
President Lungu said individual governments should work out strategies to engage communities to appreciate wildlife.
“The rights of people are paramount. Do we have the capacity to promote their rights once we grow wildlife?” he asked. “We should have mechanisms to protect the rights of people since we have identified wildlife as a source of income.”
President Lungu said there was also need to devise mechanisms to protect crop fields for communities in game management areas.
Wow! These words of Edgar sound like they are coming from a person with one heart. It would appear Edgar believes in what he says. Anyway, he might have been reading from a speech prepared for him by some technocrats.
We say so because the actions of Edgar and his close minions speak of people whose hearts are filled with hatred and vengeance, not the love they are trying to lecture people about. And Edgar was saying all that he said against the backdrop of his own government moving into a game management area in chief Hamusonde’s chiefdom evicting people, burning their homesteads. The government officers went to Lukeng’a in a helicopter, brutalising fishermen and burning their houses. And there is no way Edgar could not have known this operation given the number of people that were affected by the action. Over 500 men, women and children were left in the cold after their makeshift shelters and other belongings were burnt by government officers for allegedly practicing illegal fishing methods.
One elderly person and a child even went missing, but fortunately they were found. The people lost their essential belongings among them NRCs, voters cards, money, mealie-meal, chickens, goats, blankets. Were they considered as human beings whose rights must be preserved and protected? No. Was that community in Bweengwa Constituency engaged to appreciate wildlife as Edgar said? We doubt. Were their crop fields considered? No. They were instead burned! So what was Edgar talking about? Was he trying to be good to other people yet he left such destruction in his own home?
Was there any other humane way in which that community of fishermen would have been handled? Yes. But Edgar’s men chose the dark and, or red horse method to injure people, teach them a lesson in a way that appears it was done for political consideration.
We say the President knew of the operation because there is no repudiation of those responsible for that arbitrary displacement and human rights violation. This prevailing impunity, running parallel to good words delivered in speeches, must be stopped.
As chief Hamusonde said “Imagine a church (SDA) was set ablaze, women and children tortured and traumatised and he says people’s rights are paramount! Those people were merely harvesting God’s creation (fish) in a responsible manner and not in a game park but in a game management area.”
“It is sad that His Excellency could suggest that communities in game management areas need to benefit significantly from wildlife resources…he even says communities must have a sense of ownership of wildlife. Imagine that he could say that it is unfortunate that the lives of some members of the communities have not changed when some elite people seem to be benefiting more from the wildlife resources. I challenge him to come here and tell the fishermen he tortured and not his friends (Presidents).”
Once again, we say it is important for Edgar to always mull over issues before making public pronouncements on things. Sometimes it is better to keep quiet.
In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise (Proverbs 10:19).