A warlord is a leader of a militia group who exercises political, economic or social control of an area. He may do this in league with state support or in rebellion of the state or governance systems. Their organisational structures may differ from country to country or from territory to territory, but their motives remain similar: that is to have control of resources and the population in the area under their control. They may raise their funds using every available means, such as genuine business transactions, drug dealings, property ownership all the way to money laundering and human trafficking.
Warlordism can start from different causes and reasons, but oftentimes, it’s selfish individuals who are greedy for power and wealth. We have seen this in Eastern Congo and other parts of the world.
Here is a snippet of one of the world’s most famous criminal, Columbian drug lord, Pablo Escobar (1949-1993), who I cite as an example of what corrupt wealth can transform someone into a warlord. Between 1970 and 1993, Pablo Escobar was the world’s most feared criminal and also the richest, with a net worth in excess of 40 billion US dollars. Pablo was able to evade police dragnet as he took advantage of poverty among the masses and used his ill-gotten wealth to buy favours from local peoples, and where necessary, threatened or silenced those who wanted to report his presence to the police. He’s one example of a criminal who built schools, hospitals and other infrastructure for the poor. He had senior police officers, newspaper editors, judges and other influential people on his payroll. He once stood for political office in 1982 and thereafter was able to support or decide who wins what election. Such a person, though a pervert, is almost untouchable by the police. Thus we can say that warlords would use the same cunning tactics and audacious tricks as drug lords do, to get what they want.
Now, why am I bothering you with all this stuff about a person you probably have never heard about and have no relation with? First, how do you feel when you see pictures or videos of reckless youths brandishing shiny rifles and smiling as they do so? How do you feel when you hear of gang fights in what is supposed to be a Christian nation? You see, some of us are sincerely worried because in Zambia today we seem to be condoning what may one day turn out to be cartels of warlords. We call them cadres or Jerabos or what have you. They control markets, bus stations and they have access to ore dumps as long as they promise to give political support to those who need it. From controlling markets and bus stations these rogues will one day start controlling tracks of land and territories. And then they can start dictating who goes to Parliament and what to say when there.
If you throw good judgment to the wind and embrace laxity, you find that even some people with dirty money want to align themselves with powers that-be so as to conceal their stolen money.
Is there anything wrong in being wealthy? Not at all. But there’s everything wrong in getting rich through cheap gangsterism, threatening and wholesome manipulation of people by those who feel they have power. What has brought much frustration in this country are those cadres who are ready to shed blood for their leaders. If someone is ready to risk their lives for politics, then they are more likely to do anything to get what they want, at any cost.
But there’s a lot we can do to avoid organized crime take root in our beloved country, and one of these is for all of us to be exemplary in all we do. The police and all security wings need to exercise their duties free from political interference. Crimes, especially those from cadres, should be condemned with the contempt they deserve. Political cadreism needs to be put in check.
Do we have warlords in Zambia? No. Can they be made? Yes. So let’s pray.
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name,
Help us not to slide into
A country of cadres,
Or a nation of gassers.
But make us love and care,
One for the other.
As we hold our hands,
To stand and sing,
One Zambia, One Nation,
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