THE freedom to identify and belong to a country that values and protects life should be the right of every citizen to enjoy. Such high values of equality, justice and balanced morality informed the intentions and vivid hope of those who fought for the independence of Zambia from the 1930s until 1964 when it was won.
It is the same compass that motivated the citizenry to restore democracy in 1991.
To start from the beginning, national interest, in the form of Nationalism, was constructed and construed by the freedom fighters to reign above tribe or regionalism and every other conceivable excuse to disunite a people. Nationalism, for ease of interpretation, conveys a sense of belonging to a specific national identity or country. It is a concept and reality of a whole, a total sum composed of many and not a concept a special few to above all others. Obviously, it was not an easy task to dream of a country and to realize that dream so that unity becomes a precondition of statehood.
These stalwarts of independence, who have largely gone unnoticed and unmentioned, made sure that even when their names are deleted by the dust of unmarked graves and weakness of memory, that their collective ideals for the country would not be forgotten.
So, they inscribed in Chapter 3 of the independence Constitution (1964) the ‘Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the Individual’. There are over twenty 24 freedoms entitled to citizens and described in over 28 Articles of the Law. The privileges of nationhood for future generations were cast in stone so that, in case the State failed or refused to listen, citizens could enlist the protection of law because it was their inherent right.
These rights inscribed in the Constitution at the beginning of Zambia are for citizens to enjoy, protect and defend. This notion to defend and protect is linked strongly to Patriotism. Patriotism, in its intent and purpose, speaks to one’s pride in their (national) identity and the willingness to defend it. It is an old but potent idea of sovereignty.
These Articles of law do not place the person above government. In fact, Government, by virtue of its position as custodian of the sovereign and its laws, can decide which rights can be withheld, in times of war, for example; and which can be dispensed at particular times. Government also ensures that these rights are not the unchallenged entitlement of one group of people, but all citizens. This is where it becomes challenging because, as history shows, governments make mistakes and certain groups in society can grow and exercise impunity.
This is where democracy comes in. Democracy is not just the right of the individual to choose governments and political party leaders, it is also about equal and equitable access to justice for all. It means, by interpretation, that government is not always right and can be sued if it infringes upon the rights of an individual or group of people.
Without democracy, this imbued power of individual liberties, it is possible that government can impose its will so that Nationalism and Patriotism are reduced to slogans. In fact, these three words, Nationalism, Patriotism and Democracy have created more slogans than solutions specifically because they are, perhaps the most potent, harmonious and identifiable words in all of politics is.
So how do we conclude this matter? That if Nationalism is about the unity of national identity while Patriotism and Democracy speak to the protection of associated benefits of nationhood, is it possible for a country to suffer from an identity crisis?