OPEN LETTER TO HIS EXCELLENCE PRESIDENT HAKAINDE HICHILEMA AS I DO CELEBRATE 25 YEARS IN ZAMBIA

Dear Sir, 

I would like to reiterate my heartfelt congratulations on your election as the 7th Republic President of Zambia.  As a President of the Republic of Zambia, you are indeed considered as a “pater familias” of Zambian people and to other main souls who have only this land, delimited by the almighty Zambezi, the only place they can call a home either as refugees or as people of special concern. As I had a chance to meet you prior to your swearing in, I am proud to repeat to you that I am one of them hence the move to share my joy with you of my silver anniversary among these people full of humanism.   

This is indeed an opportunity to pay my tribute to the Zambia founding father late President Kenneth Kaunda who has left us to be with the lord for his legendary legacy for Zambian people to open both their doors and hearts to the brothers in need of a place full of love and a shelter while making Zambia member of the frontline states during the freedom struggle. 

Allow me also to pay tribute to other departed justice champions heroes under inspiration of Jesus Christ’s teachings in practice combined with African spirit of solidarity: Ubuntu.   May his souls rest in peace

I am extending my “ode” of tribute to numerous sons and daughters of this nation who went out of their way to find practical  and durable solutions in favour of refugees and asylum seekers, years in and out, during the course of their duties. These will always be occupying a special place in our hearts and in our story telling endlessly so even our offspring could be remembering them namely. Prominently among them are late Cardinal Medardo Mazombwe, late right reverend Johns Osmers, late President Michael Chilufya Sata, late father Charles Chilinda, late Dr Chileshe Mulenga, late Joseph Chuzu (bakwebangu) and several others. May almighty God rewards this people servants abundantly. 

During your term as a pater familias, you found me in high spirits because of these people who welcomed me on this soil as they were expecting me.  It was incredible to be welcomed in their homes when I knocked at their doors. Despite the language barrier many of them opted to learn mine and made to be smiling in order to respond to theirs. This was a beginning of healing of a broken heart traumatised by un-describable events. 

Coming to my story, I joined many others in running away from an imminent danger without a prior experience of a hardship it was like running while being blindfolded since I had a little knowledge about life out of Rwanda and as an asylum seeker like many of my fellow countrymen. 

I came to learn about Zambia due the Lusaka summit which attracted the then Southern Rhodesia freedom fighters and their colonial master in the late 70’s through Kinyamateka, a catholic bi-weekly new newspaper. In April 1982, I sneaked out of my home in order to eye witness the departure of the “Man with a white handkerchief,” Doctor Kaunda who was concluding his state visit tour in the Great Lakes Region as way of to urge other African countries to support the front liners states. Dr Kaunda was part of the dignitaries who joined us in 25 years of independence celebrations on 1st July 1987 at Amahoro stadium. 

Our geographical knowledge was limited since, back home,  our main source of news was the only one state owned radio channel with limited hours of broadcasting backed by one state weekly newspapers and a biweekly catholic church owned as the prominent newspapers to talk about. The incoming of the state-owned television which was officially launched at the eve on the 1993 new year was due to contribute but Rwanda was rather a torn national due to the 1st October 1990 invasion. Our French education system lead us into Francophile with almost nothing to talk about what is going on in Commonwealth countries.

And on a morning of 13th December, 25 years ago, I found myself at the door of a country called Zambia. That morning, when the morning star announcing the dawn appeared in a cloudless sky, I was filled with anxieties thinking if I will make it: just a matter of crossing to the other side of the border.  It was a passage obligé.  I had managed, in extremis, to avoid a forced repatriation which took place through the eastern border of Rwanda when the country hosting 1994 asylum seekers mobilised its military special forces to chase the 1994 survivors who were looking for a safer place on its soil citing “environment damages”. Coincidentally,  at the western border of Rwanda, in the midst of unconcern International Community, a butchering which has been compiled in the famous “2010 UN Mapping report”, was taking place.

I was due to pass immigration formalities to keep my hope of survival alive. I was not sure but I had no choice. I saw my fellow travelers presenting their passports and being stamped without any problem and pick their hand luggage to continue their journey.  

At the time, it was my turn, I greeted the immigration officer by “shinga ubwali visa” thanks to few lessons I got from the lady we shared the seat. This officer who was rather has been doing his work with too much seriousness, I saw his look changing, staring at me and broke into outburst laughter when he regained his composure my “travel document” was already stamped and handed back to me. I got it but I stood still not knowing if I must proceed and he told me: Mzee safari njema.  I could not believe it. A smile was enough to express my gratitude and congratulating myself that I have made it in life.

Two days later, the joy of my celebrations evaporated when, finally, I arrived in Lusaka. What arrival!  Whereas my fellow travelers could show a sigh of relief that they arrived at their destination, on my side I came to my senses when after coming down the bus I have no idea what could be my next step: I have nowhere to go, I could not express myself in any language. As if this was not enough, I have no single coin remaining in my pocket. 

But at least, I was very confident that I am far away from the source of my troubles. I came to learn how lucky rather I was when one Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) senior leader (current Rwanda ruling party) said: “Ntabwo twabonye umwanya wo kubakurikirana” meaning “we ran out of time to follow you”.

The story of turning our back against our country of birth is a puzzle made of innumerable pieces, the struggle for survival did not allow to compile them entirely.

In summary, the 1993 Arusha Protocols Peace Agreement signing revival our hopes that the said agreement could bring to end a 4 year war which started on 1st October 1990,  when an invasion  backed by a neighbouring country was launched through the  Rwanda north east border despite frantic diplomatic efforts of finding a durable solution to the “1959 Rwandese refugees.” Alas, on the 6th April 1994, we were greeted by a tragedy which claimed lives of two neighbouring countries sitting presidents of Hutu tribes respectively Rwanda and Burundi. Burundi was yet to recover from the October 1993 assassination of its 1st ever democratically elected late President Melchior Ndadaye.

On 5th July, 1990, the then President Habyalimana had announced the return of multiparty political system in the aftermath of the 1990 La Baule Francophonie when President François Mitterrand  urged African nations to move toward democratisation if they are contemplating to keep benefiting the France government aid. It was during this same period when the Bretons and Woods institutions were carrying out the economic reforms as Structural Adjustment Programs during which the then government was urged to review its military budget.  

According to some recent revelations, it was one or another way to prepare the ground of the Rwanda invasion by making easier than easier since it was no longer a secret that a deafening boots noise was growing at its north border since the decision to attack Rwanda was no longer a concern of diplomats. 

Various researchers described Rwanda, during the precolonial era,  as one of the monarchies (kingdoms) found at the east side of lake Kivu, occupied by 3 major tribes: Hutu (or Bantou speaking people farmers), Tutsi (pastoral Nilotic) and Twa (pygmies). The Rwanda was ruled by a Tutsi dynasty headed by a Mwami who ruled his subjects alongside his mother a Mugabekazi. 

The relationship between Hutu and Tutsi was of a servant/master as the Tutsi will emphasize it in their Mise au point letter written by UNAR party pro Mwami addressed to the then Belgian minister of colonies in the middle 50s as a way of resisting to the obvious change in gestations.

The 1896 Berlin conference placed Rwanda under Germany caretaker and later on Belgians took over in the aftermath of the 1st World War. The White fathers were the first missionaries to arrive in Rwanda in 1900 and they established missions (church compounds made up of catechism schools, chapels, and other social amenities), primary schools and colleges (since the vocational training is done at the secondary education level) later on. 

These new developments, instigated by the work of evangelisation, made Rwandese people to learn that all people are equal which led to a change of mentality. This newly acquired knowledge would influence the first educated people to start reclaiming equal treatment and equity in sharing and enjoying the national resources. The first generation of Rwandese educated popularly called evolués and working class helping the colonial master in administration, were exposed more than their counterparts hence they start claiming the return to a “self-ruling” system. Those are freedom fighters who started to talk about a “republic state” through democracy tenets as they have learnt on the school benches especially minor seminaries.  

The resistance which was exhibited by the then ruling class led to 1959 revolution which made part of Rwandese, pro mwami, to run away and to settle in neighbouring countries.  These fiftyniner, as they used to be called, despite having settled and gained the nationality of the country hosts, they organised themselves to disturb the young republic since 1962 but in vain.  

In the meantime, both governments of President Grégoire Kayibanda which was ousted by the government of Juvenal Habyalimana in 1973 tried and made frantic efforts to resolve this problem of fiftyniners however the refugees’ wish was the return to power of their mwami who was in exile with them, the power which the mwami had lost through a referendum of 25 September 1961.

Burundi, a neighbour of Rwanda in the south with similar situation socio – economic, has got its share in the Rwanda tragedy. Rwanda received an influx of “Hutu refugees”, running away the persecution targeting mainly the educated Hutu in various waves: in 1965, in 1972  (called Simbananiye plan) after the Hutu parliamentary landslide victory , in 1988  in the midst of Ntega-Marangara atrocities took place  and 1993 in the aftermath of the assassination of a 6 months old President Melchior Ndadaye. The assassination of President Ndandaye raised doubts if the then ongoing Arusha peace talks would yield expected results. Burundi on the other side, was a center of recruitment and transit of Rwandese Tutsi youth who left Rwanda to join the RPF belligerents. 

This is the way how, my generation of Rwandese born in post-independence era at the beginning of the 2nd Vatican Council with a different view of looking and analysing some issues, was dragged unwillingly into these trans-generation conflicts.

The return to multiparty political system as announced on 5th July 1990, revived the hopes that Rwandese will start enjoying the democracy tenets: economy liberalisation, creation of political parties, freedom of expression through liberalisation of the press. President Habyalimana continued this agenda despite the 1st October 1990 war. 

Meanwhile our friend Tutsi who we grew together, playing together while sharing the little resources which our country could offer, participating and carrying on together MRND ideology, the then one-party state with its propaganda of unity and peace among Rwandese, were leaving the country to join the RPF ranks. These developments led the Rwandese society of our time into a kind of schism. For instance when an officer of Rwanda Forces Armées Rwandaises (FAR), then regular army, was killed on the front against RPF since some had sent their children to the other side of the front, it was no longer possible to mourn as a neighbuorhood. The international media did contribute in a well and organized campaign against the late President Habyalimana, the same who had won various accolades due to his prudent management of the country meagre resources. 

It will be under this environment when Falcon 50 presidential jet was shot down, in the evening of 6th April 1994, in the process of landing at the Kanombe Grégoire Kayibanda international airport returning from a “Peace mini summit” in Dar Es Salaam. Few days later, sometimes towards the end of April 1994, I left my village without able to carry anything I did know that that I have just bought a one-way ticket which will lead me to Zambia.  

The invasion of the then Zaïre from east side (while other Rwandese are being pushed back through Rwanda east side), in October 1996, it will explain that there were Machiavellian moves of to “leave no one to tell” and that the invasion of Rwanda was rather a way to create a base of invading DR Congo and chase out of power President Mobutu on flimsy grounds and DR Congo balkanization would follow suit to date. 

It is well documented that the same war cost was USD 1 million per day. It didn’t spare Rwandese refugees and their Congolese hosts. 2010 UN Mapping report with other researcher revelations do speak volumes about those inhuman atrocities.   This is how those few lucky Rwandese found themselves in Zambia and me, included.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was set up with a hope that it will prosecute high ranking individuals for massive human rights violations. ICTR did finish its term by judging one side only without investigating the “Kanombe attempt”. It fails short of bringing justice which could have been a reconciliation catalyst among Rwandese.

This is how Zambia and its people through their legendary hospitality and Ubuntu offered a new lease of life to those injustice victims. They restored our dignity and above they showered us with unconditional love. Since then and onward life has been enjoyable and Zambia will remain the only place, I can talk about I am obliged to contribute in its welfare as humanly I can afford so our remaining days on this earth could be worth of it. 

We have times to times heard various pronouncements of good political will as far as refugees and people of special concern welfares are  concerned, hence some observations which can help policy makers to consider them in order to make our stay in Zambia more enjoyable and enable a gradual integration into Zambian society. Since the people of Zambia have maintained in the assented 2016 constitution preamble to remain a Christian nation, this is could be a good platform of jurisprudence inspiration in policy formulations and decision making over the matter concerning the welfare of refugees and people of special concerned.  This practice is a modus operandi by several nations worldwide:

– The application of solis ius for those ones that both parents are either refugees or asylum seekers or people of special concerned as  by the say ubi bene, ubi patria those are the ones who constitute a quarter of Zambian society and have adopted their neighbours mother tongue as theirs. Many of them will not hesitate to answer to sudor et sanguins pro patria mia call if a need arises,

-There has been a precedent whereby refugees were issued with a permanent residence; this exercise didn’t continue. Many refugees have been renewing their immigration permits without graduating to a permanent resident status despite they have been staying in Zambia for a period of more than 5 years. A permanent resident is issued for other migrants who has spent more than 5 years or non – Zambian legally married to Zambian citizens.

In the same way refugees do apply for other immigration permits as work permit, study permit, spouse permit, investor’s permit even the resident permanent could be open indiscriminately to all refugees who have spent at least 5 years in Zambia instead of being confined in a refugee camps for ever.

-The introduction of a special rates to refugees and people of special concerns payable to acquire various immigration permits by making affordable, reasonable through a fixed rate. This will help significantly refugees and people of special concern who are unable to cope with the upward adjustment of immigration permits payment, 

-The extension of presidential prerogative of mercy to refugees serving due to they have been found with an expired “gate pass” or without it at all out of refugee camps or other designated places.  As I have suggested to you,  to enable refugees to be issued with permanent residence will allow refugees to be contemplating to stay out of refugees camps at their will so they can integrate easily in the local community,

-The establishment of a commission of inquiry to look into acts of violence which has cost lives of my fellow Rwandese. I am lucky to tell the story since I am a survivor of a gunmen attack. The regularity of these murders, not to mention the manner in which they have been carried out, appear not to be coincidental but a sinister plot which could probably have been hatched and orchestrated by some rather “known” people according to their speeches. Moving around with a Rwandese nationality tag is synonymous of having a Damocles’ sword on our neck, 

-The review of the files of those who lost their refugee status through cessation clause procedures and had a “strong bond” with the country host like refugees who are married to Zambian citizen.

-The consideration of Rwanda refugees under the program of resettlement to a 3rd country as one of possible durable solution,

-The declassification of files pertaining on the matter of the manner the Rwanda former minister of justice Ms Agnes Ntamabyaliro who was not allowed to return to her Mufulira home on 27 May 1997.  Ms Ntamabyaliro, a product of Rwanda National University- Faculty of Law, once a judge at the Rwandese Court of Auditor and an architect of Rwanda economy liberalization using Parti Liberal umbrella as its founding general secretary. 

On my personal side, I have been given a rare privilege to be called mwana wo ku nyumba anything which could bother me, there is that Zambian who has been on my side since day 1 on this wonderful land.  I am remaining confident that this senior immigration officer who asked my phone number, 4 years ago, that he will analyse meticulously my file N113 and its subsidiaries to come up with a favorable solution to my outstanding issues. 

As I said from the beginning this quarter century has been wonderful. It appears to have lasted as a day. It has been wonderful to be treated as a Zambian whenever I visited these neighbouring countries. One memorable moment, it was when I was invited for an award presentation and after the ceremony I was asked to share the secret used Zambians to win since we were two presenting Zambia. 

At the new dawn of another one I remain optimist that my thread of life is hanging on the good will, kindness and generosity of Zambian people. It is my lane which I will keep with certainty. This could a second phase leading me to a golden age, I am very sure it will not be at the point of the beginning of my story.   

As it has been happening, soon ECZ will be updating its data while being flooded with many questions with these new comers who I have seen coming on earth.  They will be wondering why I am not joining them on the queues as it happened recently at Kabulonga polling station where many were wondering why my thumb has no traces of ink. 

There will be always a motivation to keep moving around with a smile since each morning I will be able to shout: “O bone fili mi, zambianus felix civis es.  This is my morning catalyst for a positive energy vibe to be thankful for a “gift life” as I learnt from the brave locals. So, I can embark on my quotidian self-given assignment to express my gratitude to those who gave me a pat in the back without waiting any appreciation in return. It is a golden opportunity to let their ears hearing it on their own when they are still standing on their feet.  

On the other side, I will use my time to be urging the upcoming ones to preserve this legacy and protect it at all costs.  I have been told, by various people from all walks of life, at several times: “you are one of us”. Nothing could match this and it has been accompanied with a shower of word of praises at the level I do check myself whether I am still enjoying earth wonders. 

There is enough time to spare and express my appreciation to those Zambians who have walked an extra mile to show me what I never dreamt about: like this Lozi princess who in the middle of the night drove all the way to ascertain my safety during the 2016 lootings, there are these Nsenga hailing from Luangwa who made me their next of kin and one traditional leader does refer to me “as my son” while introducing me to her fellow traditional leaders. 

This is the time to start going through that list and start paying my tribute: – I couldn’t believe one young local author could spare more than a paragraph to talk about me in his book,  – a certain CEO who introduced me to his senior management as one of them, – I was rather given another local name Chipego, – this boy came to my rescue when he spared his sleeping space in those congested places known to all of us,  – a colleague left me speechless when he opted to endure heavy rains while offering his comfortable seat on our way coming back from an assignment in the far flung. 

As our pater familias, you will be always an inspiration in our various endeavours with a parental guidance as I will request that the song herein attached could be approved so I can be allowed to be singing together with my peers who have been struggling to memorise it due to the language barrier.  We well find a way to squeeze in that: “Zed ngatalipo, nga shikwete kwakwikala, mwalinsunga lelo ndetasha”. This will be a way of encouraging each other that we have to contribute positively and massively in taking this great nation to greater heights and its people of a rare breed human being human. 

May almighty God let the sun be always shining on Zambian people, and rains pouring down abundantly on this land so a hamper harvest marks your seasons under a spotless sky covered with showers of the blessings and Zambia shall be always a haven of peace and love.

Yours faithfully,

Jean Serge Mandela

Zambia National anthem 

(Kinyarwanda version)

Duhimbaze Zambiya, yigenga

Dufatanye urunana ku mulimo 

Dutahukanye intsinzi iharanira ukuli

Twatsindiye ubwigenge 

Tuli hamwe nta mususu.

Turi abana bawe Afurika,

Itanazwe n’ibiganza bya  Rurema 

Rubanda twese tube umwe

Bavandimwe dusangiye umucyo

Tuli hamwe nta mususu.

Zambia ibumbiye hamwe niyo mvugo

Icyubahiro n’amahoro bitwikire iwacu

Nk’inyoni ibyinira mu rya agaca

Zambiya ushimagizwe

Twese hamwe nta mususu.

Inyikilizo

Imana ishimwe,

Ishimwe ishimwe ishimwe

Ihe umugisha iki gihugu 

Zambiya, Zambiya, Zambiya.

Twebwe abigenga 

Tuzamure ibendera ryacu.

Zambiya ushimagizwe 

Twese hamwe nta mususu.

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