WHAT happened to Derrick Chanda, that humble Zambian truck driver who was burnt to death by some lawless Congolese nationals, is very sad. But this is what happens when lawlessness is allowed to reign over a country. We understand the history of our neighbours in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a history of lawlessness, of impunity. But everything has got a time.
This lawlessness cannot go on forever, especially when the victims are innocent citizens of a neighbouring country. For a long time, Zambians have not had it easy travelling to or through Congo DR.
As foreign affairs minister Given Lubinda acknowledges, complaints against the harassment of Zambian truck drivers and other travellers to and through Congo have been there for a long time. The problem is not only at Kasumbalesa. There are also problems encountered by those who travel through the pedicle road to Luapula and the Copperbelt. Zambia has tolerated this uncalled for behaviour on the part of Congolese for a very long time.
In the days of Mobutu, it was understandable because that country, strictly speaking, had no functioning government. It was each person for himself; workers paid themselves from harassing others, especially those passing through their country. We all know the days of the kabokes. But more is expected from the current leadership of Congo DR, especially those running Katanga.
There is an effective leadership in Lubumbashi that should be capable of bringing the rule of law to our common borders. But it seems this is not their priority. Why? Probably because they benefit from this lawlessness. We have many Congolese truck drivers and other nationals passing through Zambia every day, but no one is subjected to unfair treatment on account of their Congolese nationality.
The governor of Katanga himself has a huge fleet of trucks, Hakuna Matata, that is hammering our roads every day. But they are not subjected to any unfair treatment by our immigration, customs, police and other authorities and nationals of Zambia. Katangese will have a lot of problems if the Zambian people and Zambian authorities started treating them the way they are treating others.
Today, it is not only Zambian truck drivers who are up in arms against them, but all truck drivers from the SADC region. Katanga depends on the SADC region for almost all its supplies. And almost all its exports pass through the SADC region. Hostility from the people of our region can spell doom for the economy of Katanga, and indeed even for the personal business of Katanga governor Moses Katumbi himself.
It is therefore in the best interest of the Congolese people to take this matter seriously and address the concerns being raised by the truck drivers from the SADC region and by authorities of the Zambian government. We do not want to see a situation where Zambians and other members of our region start to hit back at the Congolese. We don’t want a situation of revenge. You can’t build a united region, an integrated region on the basis of revenge.
But the violence of the Congolese, if not stopped, if not meaningfully addressed, can do only one thing, and that is to breed counter-violence. Burning another human being alive is an extreme form of barbarism that no civilised people or society can tolerate. People who carry out such barbaric acts are no better than animals. We urge the Zambian people not to take any revenge against any Congolese national.
It will be wrong for the Zambians to live by the low standards of the Congolese that they are today condemning. Let the rule of law prevail. Let all the grievances against the way our people are mistreated in Congo be dealt with in a lawful way. Sad and painful things like these happen, but such things should not turn us into animals.
Our example, our daily deeds as ordinary Zambians must produce an actual reality that will reinforce our belief in justice. No Zambian should go round harassing Congolese. Let us therefore boldly face the challenges facing us as a result of lawlessness in our neighbouring country of Congo DR, resolute to do our duty well and manfully; resolute to uphold righteousness by deed and word; resolute to be both honest and brave, to serve high ideals.
The Congolese are our neighbours, whatever their faults, whatever their offences against us may be. Let’s impress upon them our ultimate and essential friendliness towards them. Their behaviour is sometimes barbaric.
If the burning of Derrick alive is not barbarism, then what methods does barbarism employ? We would advise patience; we would advise tolerance; we would advise understanding; we would advise all those things which are necessary for people of neighbouring countries who share a common history to live together.
Let’s avoid violence against any Congolese. That does not mean we should be weak, but rather that we should, in strength and in unity, face all the troubles that are in front of us. It is time the issue of lawlessness in Congo is addressed and addressed firmly and urgently.
There is need to bring an end to the harassment of Zambians travelling to or passing through Congo. Failure to do so should certainly have consequences on the people of Congo and their leaders. Lawlessness and impunity have to end. As we have started to witness, every lawless act leaves an incurable wound, like one left by a double-edged sword.
The Congolese government has a duty to ensure that Zambian nationals and citizens of other countries travelling to or through their country are safe, are protected from harassment. And the SADC governments have a duty to ensure that the Congo DR government fulfils its regional and international obligations to protect the citizens of other countries that are found in their territory.
This is an obligation the leaders and people of Congo DR cannot ignore with impunity. If this behaviour does not change, there will be consequences. This is not advocating for revenge; it is simply a matter of reminding them of their obligations to others.
The same way we would not want to see a Congolese national mistreated in our country is the same we would not like to see a citizen of our country mistreated in Congo. The governor of Katanga lived in our country for many years and made a lot of money from here and no one mistreated him.
Even when he did wrong things, he was treated with the respect that every human being deserves. This is the civility and humility we expect from the Congolese people and their leaders. We want them to realise that non-Congolese are also human beings deserving their respect and compassion.