As Africa joins together in the celebration of African Freedom day, we must ask ourselves if we have captured the vision for freedom, peace, equality, justice and unity as set forth at the formation of the Organization of African Unity, OAU, said Pastor Lawrence Temfwe, the National Coordinator of Micah Challenge Zambia. African Freedom Day provides an opportunity for African Heads of state to address the citizens of their nation with specific achievements on poverty reduction, better education, water, and health and sanitation services. Micah Challenge Zambia, therefore urges African Heads of state of the nations that made commitment to the vision to half poverty by 2015 at the UN summit in 2000 to accelerate activities that reduce poverty.
Today we celebrate our heroes and the independence and freedom from the oppression of colonialism, imperialism, injustice, and death that has plagued our continent most of our poor communities have no reason to celebrate. Pastor Temfwe said that “We must honour the achievements of the Head of State who have come together to form a new African Union, which exemplifies the ideals of those first Heads of State who envisioned a free and prosperous Africa.” However as we honour how far we have come together, we cannot help but look at the bitter reality of what we have not yet achieved-malaria, HIV/AIDS and conflicts.
The sweet truth of freedom is made bitter by continued violence and injustice that rages across our continent. In Sudan, we see the harsh truth of murder, rape, and injustice perpetrated just across the border from the meeting site of the First Conference of Independent African States that proclaimed our freedom as Africans. To date, the World Health Organisation estimates that around 200, 000 people have died and more than 2.5 million people have been displaced due to the conflict. The actions of the AU in forming a force to establish peace in Sudan are but a stepping stone towards the actualization of our commitment to freedom for ALL of Africa. Envisioning Africa freedom cannot stop at word and celebration, but must be realized in the actions of these African nations in forming peace.
Zimbabwe too represents the unfulfilled commitment towards justice, peace and democracy in all of Africa. Mugabe’s denial of free and open elections represents a suppression of the voice of the Zimbabwean people. The failure of true democracy is manifest in Magabe’s expulsion and outright murder of the Opposition Party. This flies in the face of the goals of the OAU which we celebrate today. If the voice Africa must be heard, the voices of Zimbabwe cannot continue to be denied by their government. On this day of celebration, we call upon the leaders of Africa, especially the Southern African Development Community, to speak out against this oppression and put voice and action to the values which we so easily proclaim today.
In the proclamation of African Freedom Day, we can honour what has passed. In the 1980s and 90s the values of African Freedom Day led the people of South Africa out of imperialism and apartheid into a freer and more just society that represented to all of Africa the realization of the goals of the OAU and the First Conference of Independent African States. How then can a nation which once embodied the values of this day, allow new waves of violence against immigrants living and working in South Africa? So far, 22 immigrants have been murdered, with up to 15, 000 seeking safety in police stations, churches, and community centres. Are we not a continent desiring for peace, justice, freedom, and democracy? As one African nation to our neighbours, we call upon all of Africa to honour the distance we have come, and to recognize the race not yet finished.
Micah Challenge Zambia
On food price surge
The current food price surge is of great concern and if measures are not taken to mitigate the situation, Zambia is not going to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to halve poverty by the year 2015 says Micah Challenge. As it has been observed by The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) in their Basic Needs Basket assessment for April, the challenge of provision of sustained affordable cost of living is becoming even more formidable than before in light of current increases in global and national fuel and food prices. Micah Challenge is therefore, deeply grieved by comments attributed to Hon. Ng’andu Magande, the Minister of Finance where he was quoted as stating that Zambia will be immune to the impact of global food shortage (Post Newspaper April 26, 2008). “How can Zambians of who the majority are living in poverty and are unable to meet the cost of their basic food items be exempted from global food shortage?” asks Pastor Martin Kapenda the Campaign Coordinator
Micah Challenge says that the impact of price increases in basic food needs such mealie meal and cooking oil is felt intensely by poor families who have children attending Grade 8 to 12. Several families in the low-income communities are having their children drop out from school as they cannot afford the PTA + User fees which are pegged from K252, 000 to K600, 000. Micah Challenge calls on the Education Minister to direct all schools not expel any child on the account of failure to pay such school fees at one time. Micah Challenge appeals to the Minister to instruct schools to receive fees each term in order to assist those who cannot pay the lump sum at one time.
Micah Challenge is aware that this year’s harvest for most rural households will be significantly reduced due to excessive floods during the last year farming season. Micah Challenge is equally worried that the increase in food prices will not benefit rural farmers as they will have very little excess to sell to the urban market. Micah Challenge calls on the government to take practical steps to ensure that the rural population receives the necessary food supplements during this time of need. In addition Micah Challenge calls on the government to provide the country’s struggling farmers with subsidised fertilizers. Micah Challenge commends the government for resisting the donor conditionalities that resulted in Zambia changing from food aid importer to an exporter a few years ago. Therefore, we hail the Zambia’s subsidies program and call on the government to come with a strategy that will eventually end subsidies but at the same time ensure food security.
As a nation God has endowed this country with fertile land, minerals, water and visionary and compassionate leadership from the village chief to the community leader and from the church leader to the business leader and from government leader to artists and sports people. It will therefore be a treasonable case if we do not reduce the proportion of people living on less than one dollar from 58% to 29% by the year 2015. “We owe it to God who has entrusted us with so much and to ourselves, our children and our children’s children to fight poverty with all that we are and with all that we have,” said Pastor Lawrence Temfwe the National Coordinator of Micah Challenge Zambia