By Dickson Jere
I am an ardent fan of Mumba Yachi’s music and have all his albums. His Afro-beat is clearly in his own class and league only comparable to the likes of the legend Fela Kuti.
Not until his recent incarceration, I never thought he had issues with his citizenship. But what struck me was his passion and well-informed lyrics on the now infamous “Lumpa Church” or “Ba Lenshina” and the connection to Mokambo in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. So, his predicament made me go on a soul-searching through various literature in order to understand this Lenshina stuff, whose history remains buried and told in a bias way. We grew up to believe that the Lenshina followers drunk urine and believed they had a passport to heaven. They were evil doers.
However, yesterday, as part of the literary week, I stumbled on an interesting book titled “A Time to Mourn” that provides a good and unbiased read on this obscure history of Alice Lenshina. Authored by John Hudson, a former District Commissioner of Isoka, the book is an eye witness’ personal account of the 1964 Lumpa Church Revolt in Zambia. It gives his personal experiences of the Rise and Fall of Alice Lenshina Mulenga who formed the Lumpa church in Chinsali even though it spread to other parts of the country. The book is descriptive and for all intend and purposes, what transpired to the Lumpa followers could be best described as “genocide”. The author places the blame on the authorities at that time who mishandled the conflict between the Lumpa Church and UNIP supporters which led to thousands of people to be massacred in cold-blood.
Official statistics show that the Lumpa church had the biggest following than any other church in Chinsali, Kasama, Mpika, Isoka and Lundazi and their biggest crime was to refuse to join UNIP or participate in politics at crucial time of independence struggle.
And so, the long and the short of it is that the Lumpa supporters were attacked, raped, maimed and made to surrender including their leader Alice Lenshina. But a group of faithfuls refused to submit to UNIP’s threats and consequently fled to the neighboring Zaire now DRC where they established themselves especially in Mokambo in Lubumbashi on the border with Mufulira.
Hudson writes: “in all, nineteen thousand Lumpas went to the Congo between 1964 and 1968. Efforts were made to induce them to return after an amnesty declared in 1968 but only three thousand did so.”
I am told that among those who fled and refused to return was Mumba Yachi’s grandmother hence his birth and upbringing in Mokambo, a border town which features prominently in his songs. And he sings proudly about it!
So the Lenshina migration is believed to be the first known, after Zambia’s independence, where Zambians fled their country to seek refuge elsewhere.
“It was estimated in 1993 that there were up to fifteen thousand followers of the church in the Congo. Up to September 1994, only one thousand, six hundred had arrived in Zambia,” Hudson writes.
“The majority remained in the Congo; if they see that those who have come back do not encounter any hostility, more can be expected to return,” Hudson writes on page 63 of his Book.
How then do you treat these Zambians and their offsprings?
That’s a question!
I end here!