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Calls to remove tribal identity from NRCs faces backlash

Government's calls to remove details of tribal identity from National Identification Cards (NRCs) has been received with mixed reactions.

The public feels the country will lose its culture and identity if details of tribe and area of origin are deleted from the National Registration Card.

Currently, details on the NRC include, date of birth, place of birth, sex, village, chief and district.

Zambia has 72 tribes and seven main local languages spread across the country, with the tribes headed by traditional leaders known as chiefs.

While on a state visit to Rwanda last month, President Edgar Lungu said his government is considering removing "tribe" from the national identification document to avoid tribal wars like what happened in Rwanda between the Tutsis and Hutus.

If this is implemented, it means the provision for one's village and chiefdom would be removed from the documents.

But one of the country's senior traditional leaders, Paramount Chief Mpezeni of the Ngoni people in eastern province says this should not be allowed as a person was known by their tribe and the village.

"We are known by where we come from through the NRC, so that suggestion cannot be good," the traditional leader said.

He added that white people were also known by their origins.

"There are Greeks, English and the like, so those suggestions cannot be entertained and should not be tolerated," he added.

Another traditional ruler from Lundazi district is also opposed to the idea of removing tribe from the identification documents.

Chief Chitungulu believes that the proposal was not attainable, adding that details in the documents should not be tampered with as they tell where a person comes from.

The idea to oppose the proposal has also been received with a pinch of salt by other sectors of society.

Elijah Ngwale, a 75-year-old resident of Lusaka, wondered what details the document will bear if important issues were not included.

Ngwale, who is a political scientist and also represents the blind people, believes that the proposal should not even be entertained.

Savior Chishimba, president of the opposition United Progressive People (UPP), said such a proposal will be against God who instituted tribes, adding that having such important information on the documents was the only sure way of identifying the true citizens of the country.

"Even when you go to the United States of America, each State is represented. Not all Americans have the same accent. They are identified by the states they come from," he said.

According to him, God put 72 tribes in Zambia for easy identification.

Wynter Kabimba, leader of the opposition Rainbow party and former justice minister said tribalism is a concept being promoted by politicians, saying Zambians have co-existed over the years without any problems.

Mike Mubanga, a 93-year-old resident of Lusaka, said tribe was crucial because it defines who a person is and where they hail from.

"What is important here is that Zambians must not lose their culture. I think it is important that we should be proud of our tribe and we must be proud to promote our culture," he said.


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