The Zambian government has turned down a request by the United States to establish a military base in the South African country."As Zambia, we will not be giving sanctuary and I think I can speak on behalf of the SADC region that none of us is interested,' said President Mwanawasa, while rejecting United States' plan to establish a military base in his country.In addition, as the chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), The Zambian president however added that each country has its own authority to decide on strategic matters. Source UKZambians.co.uk
Is it just me or does anyone out there sense the folly of that statement by our President. Are not these words from the same mouth that was just recently in Washington and London, desperately begging for any kind of foreign investment into Zambia. This in my view is talking from both sides of your mouth and I think Zambia just missed an opportunity for long term investment and the needed attention of the World’s greatest superpower. (Apatebeta Lesa Tapafuka ichushi).
I feel the President, his cabinet and the Zambian people should have given this request a sober reflection perhaps in the old traditional setting of an Insaka. In this insaka setting, am sure strong voices would have been raised in disgust, at the US created nightmare in Iraq by zealous middle aged men, recovering from the hangover of the failed grandeurs of the old soviet era. This opinion maybe legitimate in the interim, as survey after global survey shows more people in the world are less favorable and fearful of US dominance and increasing presence in the world.
Then a much younger, but even more zealous loud voice high on the toxic lyrics of Kanye West, T.I, T-Pain and Beyonce would rise in praise of the good old USA. How the US is the most beautiful country in the world, where every dream comes true. This voice would rant about the beauty of democracy, how free people are more successful in governance, business, education and live happier lives. In fact the young voice would continue, so many people want to immigrate to US, so much so the US government has reasoned it is cheaper and perhaps better to bring the US model to the rest of the world than have everyone come here - this is exactly what the US is doing in Iraq.
After an earful of the two voices talking, an older and much wiser voice, would rise from near slumber and ask the all important questions;
What would a US base in Zambia, really mean for the average Zambian?
What long term benefits would this base bring?
What threats would Zambia face if this base was built there?
My dear young and middle aged voices, our country Zambia, was once strong and important. In those days, before you were both born, the world was at war, as it is in a way now, our copper sold for a lot of money- believe it or not a single unit of our currency was even worth two British pounds. So much has happened since those glorious times, our country is now afflicted by a debilitating poverty that threatens so many lives. Our once productive industries have collapsed, businesses are choked by high interest rates and inflation - public institutions are under funded and overwhelmed by a growing population.
A US base may not fix everything but the presence of 20,000 to 50,000 US servicemen in Zambia would generate a lot of business. These servicemen would need so many services food, fuel, telecommunications, roads, hospitals and schools for their families. They would employ so many Zambians directly, and many Zambian businesses ranging from building, repairs, cleaning etc would suddenly have more customers. If our government, negotiated the contract in the interest of the Zambian people, the US base would continue to use Zambian businesses for many years to come. Our economy would get the constant push it needs and the benefits would be felt everywhere, even in Solome village in Mpika.
Would Zambia then, be the target of Islamic fundamentalists burnt on hitting US interests anywhere, maybe but rememmber because Zambia is a declared Christian nation, they already hate our nation. The benefit the base would bring to our nation outweigh any threats out there, in fact the real threat, poverty that this base would assuage, kills so many Zambians daily.
I only hope, the mwankole(bird) that brought this news of this missed opportunity to my house in Chicago, makes another fly by State house in Lusaka and gives President Mwanawasa, Kashikulu’s reaction to the news from home.