Thursday, April 18, 2024

How tribalism stunts Zambian democracy


By Honourable Brown C. Kapika
Honourable Brown C. Kapika

By Honourable Brown C. Kapika

Zambia’s democratic transition is back in the spotlight. The concern is no longer the stranglehold of autocrats, but the hijacking of the democratic process by tribal politics .The challenge to democracy in Zambia is not the prevalence of ethnic diversity, but the use of identity politics to promote narrow tribal interests. It is tribalism.

There are those who argue that tribalism is a result of arbitrary post-colonial boundaries that force different communities to live within artificial borders but this argument suggests that every ethnic community should have its own territory, which reinforces ethnic competition.

But in the absence of efforts to build genuine political parties in Zambia which can compete on the basis of ideas, but many Zambians have reverted to tribal identities as foundations for political competition, and as well Political leaders has been often exploited tribal loyalty to advance personal gain, parochial interests, patronage, and cronyism.

Tribes are not built on democratic ideas but thrive on zero-sum competition, as a result, they are inimical to democratic advancement. In essence, tribal practices in Zambia are occupying a vacuum created by lack of strong democratic institutions.

Tribal interests have played a major role in armed conflict and civil unrest across Africa, where by Political leaders of the different opposition parties particularly in Countries like Zambia are primarily focusing on pursuing their tribal interests rather than uniting the Country under ‘one Zambia one Nation’ manifesto, as a result some Zambians political parties are unable to find common ground through coherent party manifestos. The manifestos are generally issued late because much of the effort goes into building tribal alliances.

In Zambia we needs a new constitution to address the issue of ethnicity by ensuring that a president needs broad geographical support to be elected. A winner must receive more than half of all the votes cast in the election and least 25% of the votes cast in each of more than half of the country’s provinces.

But Zambian tribal leaders are clever in calculating, their sole mission is self-preservation, with the side effect of subverting democratic evolution. For them tribal politics is a zero-sum game, so they are prone to using hate speech and inciting violence.

The way forward for Zambian democracy lies in concerted efforts to build modern political parties founded on development ideas and not tribal bonds, whereby such political parties must base their competition for power on development platforms.

Defining party platforms will need to be supported by the search for ideas—not the appeal to tribal coalitions .Political parties that create genuine development platforms will launch initiatives that reflect popular needs.

Those Political parties relying on manipulating ethnic alliances only brings sectarian animosity into government business, and whoever is elected as president of Zambia will spend most of his or her time on tribal balancing rather than on economic management.

Political Parties manifestos are fundamentally documents in which parties outline their principles and goals in a manner that goes beyond popular rhetoric .They arise from careful discussion, compromise, and efforts to express the core values and commitments of the party.

Building clear party platforms requires effective intellectual input, usually provided through think-tanks and other research institutions .Most Zambian political parties lack such support and are generally manifestos cobbled together with little consultation although Zambia tribal groupings see themselves as infallible but parties have to be accountable to the people. And by stating a vision for the future, Zambia political parties should provide voters with a ways to measure their performance including forging platforms fosters debate within parties that transcends tribal and religious differences. Such debates are a central pillar of democracy.

Building modern political parties and associated think-tanks is, therefore, the most urgent way to counter tribal politics in Zambia

Policy debate is a key element of democracy, it promotes Specific manifestos to foster healthy political competition that would force parties to distinguish themselves from each other. Conversely, such debates would also help to illustrates areas of common interest.

Indeed, it has becomes clear that issues such as infrastructure – energy, transportation, irrigation, and poverty – and youth employment etc. are emerging as common themes in Zambian politics irrespective of ideological differences.

By Honourable Brown C. Kapika
President for ‘Adedo – Zamucano Political Party (Zambia)
President for ‘Beweging voor Burger – en Mensenrechten’ Political Party (Netherlands)
(Partij voor de Burgerlijke – en Mensenrechten)


  1. It is politicians who propagate tribal politics. Ethnic groups on their own strive for survival under harsh economic conditions. The politicians fan the tribal fires. Also African politics is used to consistory resources for one’s tribe. This is what Sata and PF have done since 2011. Now they are panicking at the prospect of losing the control. That’s why they are busy casting aspersions against Tongas.

    There’s good basis for either separating the ethnic groups or rotating the Presidency. Botswana shines because the dominant ethnic group is grounder in integrity, hardworking and fairness. Zambia does not work because the dominant Bemba group is grounded in thievery, corruption, manipulation and chaos. What should the other people do who want peace, development and law and order?

  2. Is our honourable a dual citizen of Zambia & the Netherlands? Is Adedo-Zamucano registered in Zambia? Quite an interesting man. He uses so many words to explain a single point. He would make a good opponent for George Mpombo in a debate. Having said that he is right in pointing out that tribal leaders (like thickneck Chimbwili) will be the downfall of Zambia.

  3. Dr you not sure of what u’re outlining or explaining,why yo focus was on tribal politics being spread by oppositon political party leaders forgeting the pf leadership are the ones in forefront of promoting tribal politics,but that God that their tribal master has realised that he started an evil campaign schedule by banning it,do yo research before writing anything

  4. Already you’re biased because it’s the ruling party championing tribalism through Kambwili, Mumbi Phiri, Frank Bwalya and are potential genocide perpetrators at The Hague and not the opposition. Your article is misplaced.get your facts right.

  5. Democracy is a failed experiment in Africa. It will never work. That is not how we Africans relate. The solution lies in us going back to the leadership style we had based on Chiefdoms and Villages. Everyone in the village knew who the hopeless man was and who the wise was. This extended to the chiefdom.
    The nation must be led by a Council of Chiefs and get rid of this so called democracy stuff. Where is has worked, it is because of migrants who found a common bond by being homeless. They had to make their newly found community work. We Africans just got disrupted and now we blindly follow that which is a misfit in our setting. Have you ever wondered why, say Zambian nationals in another country bunch together regardless of tribe in their home country? They have no option. They need to…

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