Eight years after President Frederick Chiluba officially declared Zambia to be a "Christian nation," the declaration is largely meaningless, according to church leaders and officials. On December 30, 1991, Zambia's newly installed president declared this small, southern African nation a Christian state, despite opposition from some Christian and Muslim leaders. Prominent church officials interviewed by Ecumenical News International (ENI) this week said that the declaration had become increasingly "hollow," as Zambia faces mounting social, political and economic problems, including widespread corruption. Archbishop John Mambo, head of a 1.5 million-member Protestant denomination, the Church of God in Zambia, said there had been a rise in "immorality and corruption in our country which puts a question mark on our being called a Christian nation."
Archbishop Mambo told ENI: "There is very little to show that we are a Christian nation with so much wrong-doing, both in private and public life. There is nothing to distinguish us from secular nations. This is sad."
Joe Komakoma, a priest and executive secretary of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), agreed that immorality had increased, especially among government leaders.
Komakoma said leaders were amassing wealth in dubious ways, leaving ordinary people uncared for. "Lust for money, power and social privileges has been made to look like a virtue. This has resulted in the worsening of social indicators, high poverty levels, widening of the gap between the rich and the poor, endemic corruption and a sharp rise in crime."
Thomas Lumba, a pastor and national director of the 2-million-member Evangelical Fellowship churches, also said that rising poverty was at odds with Zambia's status as a Christian nation.
Speaking at a function to celebrate the eighth anniversary of the declaration, Lumba said it was disappointing that there was almost nothing in the public life of many Zambians to indicate that the country had been declared Christian. He also drew attention to rising poverty affecting most Zambians. Celebrations of the 8th anniversary of the declaration attracted only a small following. The organizers, including the deputy minister for religious affairs, Peter Chintala, had expected more than half-a-million people to attend the main celebration at Lusaka's agriculture and commercial showgrounds. But only about 10,000 people had come. Zambia's vice president Lieutenant General Christon Tembo, who stood in for President Chiluba at the event, admitted that so far the declaration had remained largely theoretical. "We have blueprints on paper. But we need to concretize this declaration." He said church leaders would meet government officials soon to draw up a program with a definite direction for the nation to follow."
We should have a Christian orientation in all fields at all levels, if we are to truly turn Zambia into a Christian nation," he said.
But the Christian nation declaration celebrations have long been fraught with controversy. Leaders of the opposition political parties were not invited to the latest celebrations. Dean Mungomba, vice-chairman of an alliance of seven opposition parties, denounced the celebrations as deceitful, treacherous, and a one-party affair. "They [government leaders] cannot invite any opposition leaders because they know the crimes they have committed against the citizens of this country in the name of Christ."
We can't deal with chaps who plundered the wealth of this nation in the name of God. They do not qualify to declare this country a Christian nation."
Alick Mugala, media liaison officer of the National Islamic Propagation Centre, said: "Declaring Zambia a Christian nation puts one religion in a superior position to others, and that is not fair."
According to the World Churches Handbook, published in London, about 4.6 million of Zambia's population of 10 million are Christians. The Roman Catholic Church in Zambia, which is the biggest, has about 1.6 million members, according to the handbook. Zambia also has small Muslim and Hindu communities.
What Chiluba did after declaring Zambia a Christian Nation
20th October, 2015By Billy Kapinga
Frederick Chiluba, Infamous Zambia Leader, Dies at 68
Frederick Chiluba, the first democratically elected president of Zambia, a man whose image as a defender of civil liberties was later tarnished by his efforts to suppress political opposition and accusations that he used millions of dollars of public money on his wardrobe and other extravagances, died Saturday in Lusaka. He was 68.
He suffered from chronic heart problems. His death was confirmed by his spokesman, Emmanuel Mwamba.
The son of a copper miner, Frederick Jacob Titus Chiluba — a diminutive man barely five feet tall — was Zambia’s president from 1991 to 2002. His ascent to high office was for a time considered a heartening success story in a poor, landlocked nation of 13 million people in southern Africa.
He left secondary school before graduation and was working as a low-paid bookkeeper when he joined a union, rising through the ranks in the labor movement until he became chairman of the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions in 1974.
The nation had won independence 10 years earlier. Kenneth Kaunda, a hero of the liberation struggle, was Zambia’s first president, but his single-party, socialist rule was an economic failure. In 1981, he jailed Mr. Chiluba and other labor leaders without charges after they instigated wildcat strikes.
A judge ruled the detentions unconstitutional, and after three months behind bars, Mr. Chiluba emerged emboldened. He would eventually forge a coalition of unions, civic groups and churches to form the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy to challenge Mr. Kaunda at the polls.
A personable man with oratorical gifts, Mr. Chiluba was a born-again Christian and often used biblical references in his speeches. He was also a passionate advocate of democracy, and in 1991, when Mr. Kaunda finally agreed to multiparty elections, Mr. Chiluba won the presidency with nearly 76 percent of the vote.
In his first address, the new president said, “The Zambia we inherit is destitute — ravaged by the excesses, ineptitude and straight corruption of a party and a people who have been in power for too long.” He lamented that after 27 years of Mr. Kaunda’s leadership, “Now the coffers are empty. The people are poor. The misery endless.”
Mr. Chiluba was indeed inheriting a fiscal mess, and though he steered the country toward a free-market economy, the government remained dependent on foreign aid, and the average Zambian was still mired in poverty.
The remarkable transformation seemed to come in Mr. Chiluba rather than in his nation.
The Chiluba government was notably corrupt, and the president appeared to regard himself as irreplaceable. In 1996, he barred Mr. Kaunda from running against him, changing the Constitution to preclude candidates born outside Zambia. He even attempted to deport Mr. Kaunda to Malawi.
In 2001, Mr. Chiluba again toyed with rewriting the law, this time to allow himself a third term in office. But by then, the president’s reputation as a reformer had been replaced by one far less flattering. Civic groups and churches rose up in opposition and thwarted the plan. Instead, Mr. Chiluba anointed his former vice president, Levy Mwanawasa, as his successor, presuming that incriminating secrets would remain concealed.
But the new president, narrowly elected, instead decided to shine a light on public corruption. Mr. Chiluba would soon be charged with stealing $500,000 of public funds. He additionally was sued in a civil action by Zambia’s attorney general, who decided to try the case in Great Britain, where the former president was said to have laundered millions of dollars he plundered while in office.
Testimony in the civil matter was astonishing. Zambia’s anti-corruption task force had seized much of Mr. Chiluba’s wardrobe, including 349 shirts, 206 jackets and suits, and 72 pairs of size-6 shoes, many of them personalized with his initials affixed in brass. The heels added two inches to his stature.
Mr. Chiluba spent more than $500,000 in a single clothing store, Boutique Basile, in Geneva. Its owner testified that garments were sometimes paid for with suitcases full of cash.
“The president,” unlike the emperor, “needs to be clothed,” Justice Peter Smith of the High Court said in 2007, ruling that Mr. Chiluba owed Zambia $57 million. Much of the money, Justice Smith said, had been funneled into an intelligence agency bank account in London “set up primarily to steal government money.” Justice Smith said the former president “should be ashamed,” pointing out that while he was accumulating handmade shoes and silk pajamas, many Zambians “could not afford more than one meal a day.”
Mr. Chiluba, who never appeared in court, refused to recognize Justice Smith’s verdict, calling it “racist” and “obscene.”
The criminal proceedings, held in Lusaka, were less sensational. They dragged on for six years, frequently delayed by Mr. Chiluba’s ill health. The former president denied stealing any public funds, saying instead that he had received millions in gifts from “corporate interests” and “well-wishers” whose identities he would not reveal because of “the golden rule of anonymity.”
In 2009, a magistrate acquitted Mr. Chiluba, ruling that however large his fortune, the money could not be traced to missing government funds. Celebrating the news, the former president said, “The devil has tried to put the stigma of a thief on me, but God has dealt with the devil.”
By then, Levy Mwanawasa had died in office. His successor, Rupiah Banda, has since disbanded much of the nation’s anticorruption apparatus. Mr. Banda has referred to Mr. Chiluba as a “damn good president” and credited him with bringing political freedoms to the country.
Mr. Chiluba will be accorded a state funeral, the government announced. He is survived by his wife, Regina, and, according to local reports, 10 children.