On October 24, 1964, the southern African country of Zambia gained independence from the United Kingdom. Fifty years later, it’s one of the most politically stable nations in an oft-troubled region.
“Today, Zambia’s dawn and the promise of peace and democracy has become a reality,” says a statement released by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Zambian writer Laura Miti says the anniversary is a point of pride. “I’m happy we made it [50 years],” she says, “and I think when you look around, you get the sense that we’re not as badly off as others have had it.”
But Miti is quick to point out that Zambia is far from perfect, both historically and in the present.
“Zambians are unnecessarily poor,” she says. “Generally, the majority of Zambians have much, much lower standards of living than they should, given the resources the country has. And education has gone south. My particular generation is raising kids much less educated than they themselves are.”
She says it's time for the country to undergo a serious political and social transformation. “What I hope for Zambia is much better management of our resources,” she says. “That includes human, natural and financial resources.”
“The next 50 years, I think, should be about improved service delivery and improved lives,” she says. “Forget the politics — just improved lives for the ordinary citizen.”
Yet even with the problems that exist, Miti, who lives in South Africa now, thinks fondly of her homeland and its people.
“Zambia is extremely easy going,” she says. “You get smiles from strangers, and ‘hellos,’ too. If there’s a queue, there will be conversations going on as if people are long-lost friends. Having lived in South Africa as long as I have, I find that I still would just like to be in Zambia.”
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