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Is Zambia at peace?

Dr Charity Musamba says the assertion contained in the latest GPI report that “Zambia is one of most peaceful countries in the region and globally” is not a “reality” but “mere perception”.

Dr Musamba, a University of Zambia development studies lecturer, says the latest Global Peace Index (GPI) Report had revealed that Zambia is one of the most “peaceful” countries regionally and globally – ranking it on the fourth and 44th respectively. However, she says there was need to be very cautious with such assertions.

“First and foremost, it is important to make a clear distinction between ‘peace’ and ‘stability.’ The concept of ‘peace’ has a deeper and stronger standing in terms of understanding the living conditions of people in a society while stability, although a necessary condition in all this, is not an end in itself,” says Dr Musamba. “In contrast, peace deals and addresses wider and deeper imperatives of human life such as the state of human dignity, prospects for human development, equity, equality and economic and political empowerment of people in a society.”

Indeed, peace cannot mean living every day with fear. Peace is not the absence of war. It is wrong to think that peace is simply the lack of violence or conflicting behaviour, and the absence of threats of violence. Peace is an entity with one universal identity holding within it the qualities that constitute the whole. The thought that absence of war is peace is analogous to thinking that absence of disease is health. Health is a positive state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease, or infirmity. Similarly, peace is a positive state where there exists social justice and brotherhood in an enabling environment and not merely absence of war.

Martin Luther King Jr used to talk of a negative peace where there is no outright war, but there is underlying tension and anxiety, and positive one where there is presence of justice and brotherhood. Which of the two is rearing its head more prominently in Zambia today?

The existence of negative peace around us cannot be overstated. It would only be naïve and unreasonable to assume that tension would remain tension forever. Wars have been fought and won but peace is seen to be sinking deeper into the abyss. Without appropriately addressing the tensions, the many layers of anger, resentment, pain, mistrust and hatred, and instead thinking that powerful armies will deliver peace will be a great misnomer.

At all costs, working towards achieving sustainable peace is not cheap but the consequences of conflict are costly.

As Zambians, when we eat and drink and make merry, it does not mean that we are a peaceful country. For peace is like a balloon full of air, when pricked it will burst.

Albert Einstein said, “Peace is not merely the absence of war but the presence of justice, of law, of order- in short, of government.” Peace has different definitions, but in a nutshell, it is a tool or means to end war or conflict. The elephant in the room. Peace if discussed in the context of war means absence of war or hostilities. Consequently, when discussed in absence of war, peace does not necessarily mean people are at peace and the society is peaceful. This is because there are existing problems and hostilities.

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