Today we celebrate Zambia’s most valuable asset – our unity. Modern Zambia was founded upon the notion of unity and championed by our great leader Dr Kenneth Kaunda. Following independence this nation was built brick by brick on the belief that to grow we needed to cast aside tribal stereotypes and instead highlight all the qualities we share.
Today with over 70 different tribal groups and approximately 14 million inhabitants, Zambia is one of few African nations that does not have the burden of inter-tribal violence and animosity, I am proud to be a Zambian, and proud of our commitment to being a unified country. Indeed, the UPND has a strong vision for Zambia – a vision of a united, prosperous and equitable Zambia. We believe our policies and practices will foster the solidarity we need to drive this great nation forward.
There are those who would see us divided and who throw around tribal labels irresponsibly for personal or political advantage. They attempt to use them to score political points and distract Zambians from the important issues and the unacceptable truth that more than 50 years after independence the majority of Zambians still live in poverty because their government has failed them.
In the UPND we open our arms to all Zambians equally. We know that our potential as a nation is great, but that we will only be able to reach this if we join hands and work together. We encourage debate and disagreement, both within the party and with our colleagues in government and the opposition. This is an important part of any healthy democracy. However, we strongly believe that this debate and difference of opinion must focus on the issues and the policies, not on tribal or any other personal labels, which only serve to undermine the interests of us all.
In order to continue moving forward together and to protect our unity as a nation we must employ several different tools. Firstly, we need a foundation of good governance, which means the new people driven constitution with proper protection for the human rights of each and every Zambian. It also means an open and transparent government that does not shy away from criticism and that can be held to account by the people, the media and civil society.
The most important factor in all this is a personal passion of mine – education, education, education. Education is the strongest weapon in our fight against disparity and inequality. We believe that a strong education system is the best investment we can make to ensure that each and every Zambian gets the best start in life.
Every Zambian deserves the chance to succeed and live a happy, plentiful life. This starts with making sure Government provides stability in schools and universities across the country, whether that is a primary school in Choma or a university student at CBU. We must raise the quality of education available to our children and ensure access across the board. This should be a daily focus for government. Only by giving our children a better and equal start in life can they carry forward our unity into the future and help continue our journey forward as One Zambia, One Nation.