Zambia has had a diverse ethnic, linguistic, and cultural composition from the beginning of time. Ethnic groups are currently reinforcing their traditions through music and dance at key annual rites and social gatherings such as funerals and weddings. Ethnic diversity in politics requires managing a potentially volatile nation.

In his article titled “Africa: another side of the coin: Northern Rhodesia’s final years and Zambia’s nationhood ,” Andrew Sardanis suggests that since independence, the overarching political goal of Zambia has sought to unite its many ethnic cultures, for instance by establishing English the only official language of official business. In spite of official initiatives to promote integration among the many ethnic groups, the majority of social, economic, and demographic developments in Zambia are expected to reflect the country’s residents’ distinctive ethnic origins and aspirations. Due to the fact that the bulk of these results and their variations conflict with the government’s goal of unifying ethnic cultures, they are either unknown or undocumented.

“Zambia’s underlying political objective since independence has been to bring the many ethnic societies together—for example, by making English the single official language of government business.”




As a result, Zambian politicians and political observers have overlooked the consequences of imposing a collective identity on a varied society. For example, one of Zambia’s languages, Bemba, was recommended as the national language in an editorial in a leading independent daily, The Post (Editor 2007). This proposition provoked a spirited debate among Zambians from various tribes. The outcome of this debate is summarized in Mbozi’s (2007) presentation.

Unfortunately, neither the editorial in the Post Newspaper nor Mbozi’s (2007) arguments and suggestions are grounded in the origins and development of Zambia’s solidified language divisions. From a babel of more than fifty Zambian languages, missionary and colonial activities and policies solidified the language map to four (4) , according to historical literature (Posner 2003:128).

Because transcribing all of Zambia’s languages before translating the Bible was impossible, early missionaries only transcribed four: Bemba, Lozi, Nyanja (Chichewa), and Tonga. As a result, the colonial government’s Native Education Department promoted just four languages because producing educational books for all of them was prohibitively expensive. 



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Individuals from diverse linguistic backgrounds were forced to learn one of the four languages for work and social purposes due to a concentrated language environment (Posner 2003).

However, Posner (2003) does not explain why missionaries and the colonial authority picked these languages over others as languages of instruction—Bemba in the north, Lozi in the west, Nyanja in the east, and Tonga in the south. He concedes that his explanation of language promotion mechanisms provides no hints as to why the populations who speak each of these languages came to be physically placed in various locations of the country (Posner 2003: 135).

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Although the establishment of social processes has significantly reduced tribalism, powerful tribes that seek to maintain their autonomy have fiercely opposed this progress. Due of this, tribe elites and people in positions of authority have occasionally been able to unfairly influence dominating tribal forces by giving them undeserved favours in an effort to maintain control. In order to win over obedient tribes, corrupt administrations frequently engage in extensive corruption, including the theft of state funds obtained from the utilisation of natural resources. This strategy has largely backfired, especially when some tribes are left out. 

In order to determine the effects of tribalism in the community, the majority of respondents said 25% it will result in a lack of unity in the community and possibly lead to conflict such as civil war (M. Mudenda, 2022). Of the major causes of tribalism, 30% were cultural beliefs or orientation, 24% were political affiliations, and 25% were political beliefs or orientation.
Similar to this, it was demonstrated through a literature analysis that tribalism throughout time caused a wave of intense conflict between competing individuals and/or tribes. Examples of places where tribal strife hampered the growth of democracy include Rwanda, Iraq, and Sudan. It is obvious that tribalism has prevented an inclusive society from developing.

Hence, if tribalism persists, democratic procedures cannot successfully prevail. It is important to oppose political elites who use tribal factors to maintain their positions of power. Increasing inclusive governance is a unique way to heighten lowering tribalism while benchmarking tribalism. A supportive climate is also provided through inclusive government, without abusing marginalised tribes.

We are split by tribalism, and it keeps us divided. It causes us to believe some untrue ideas. That causes us to discount other truthful things. Tribalism has a negative impact on Zambian society in a number of ways, including socially, politically, economically, and legally. It can also have an impact on the safety and security of local communities. The youth and women are particularly vulnerable because it affects their ability to exercise their rights and makes them fearful for the future. Tribalism hinders the development of the free market, prevents the integration of clans, fosters nepotism and self-interest, undermines the rule of law, intensifies disputes between clans, and leads to the dominance of one clan over the others.

In other words, only large clans can exist because they have preferential access to all resources; tribalism is mostly to blame for the unemployment of qualified youth, which makes young people thirsty for education. Anybody may experience tribalism’s effects, and it keeps spreading owing to weak leadership and governance structures, a lack of high-quality education, bad perception, people’s trust in the strength of clans, denial, as well as corruption and poor resource management for the government.

Going forward, it is pointless to solve Zambia’s problems without addressing their root causes, as rivalry and conflict over resources and power are currently the main drivers of tribalism in Zambia and throughout Africa. Via constitutional structures, there must be a precise formula for power and resource distribution. This will guarantee that the allocation of state resources is no longer skewed. Each tribe or group might then be adequately represented.


“We are split by tribalism, and it keeps us divided. It causes us to believe some untrue ideas.”


Political leaders must refrain from fostering animosity among various tribes. Politicians who gain from tribalism ideology may be driven by a desire to hold onto power. This is accomplished by making accommodations for well-known tribes that enjoy broad support. The issue, though, is that smaller tribes are ignored in the procedure since they don’t have much support and can’t affect how the democratic process turns out. In this way, powerful tribes oppress less powerful tribes in order to further their own interests. Political leaders from larger well-known tribes throughout the world are opposed to minor tribes because of this. The democratic values that authorities must preserve at all times are violated by this. Thus, it is advised that political authorities make a concerted effort to unify tribes so that individuals of all ethnic groups can respect one another. The truth is that no one should be given preference over another because of their race. Also, it would be better if all authority were transferred to local governments since only a federal system of government can guarantee the safety of tiny tribes from those who would seek to exploit and conquer them. The other choice would be to propose a system that allows for the rotation of important positions across tribes. Federalism appears to be the preferable option thus far since communities in Zambia have traditionally lived separately.

No matter what tribe they come from, people are urged to accept one another. Many members of powerful tribes frequently assert their superiority over members of lesser tribes. This encourages them to act in a highly haughty manner towards members of other tribes. This emphasis forces individuals to respect one another regardless of their ethnicity. There is no compelling evidence to suggest that members of dominating tribes are more unique than members of other tribes. Disrespectful individuals seek to instill this mindset in other people. Their desire to look superior to others is a senseless assertion. People must not be duped by anyone who claims their tribal affiliation as a justification for prominence. People from minor tribes may be attacked if they are about to surpass members of major tribes because of the hubris associated with dominating tribes. Their adherence to concepts of tribalism that lack foundation impairs their intellectual capacity.

In addition, enforcing rigorous regulations that prohibit discriminatory practises in the delivery of public services is also essential. Tolerance is undoubtedly a crucial component of unity in diversity in Zambia, since it teaches people to accept and tolerate traditions and cultures that are different from their own. Tribalism is a backwards habit because some individuals enjoy humiliating and making fun of other people’s traditions and practises, which is a form of insulting and demeaning others. As this alone will dispel stereotypes, generalisations, and preconceptions about other tribes/traditions, we must assist individuals in learning about, comprehending, and even simply gaining a glance into other Zambians’ cultures. As we are ignorant to the potential of other ways of thinking, perceiving, comprehending, and interpreting the world when we are confined to our own conceptual frameworks, building bridges across cultural boundaries is vital. Also, it would be beneficial if foreign donor organisations like the World Bank tied all development money to outcomes like the implementation of constitutional amendments and other suitable anti-tribal violence policies. This is crucial because true and sustained progress can only be accomplished by eliminating tribalism. Meritocracy must be completely accepted in both the public service and the private/corporate sector if tribalism is to be successfully combated. Only those with the highest qualifications should be taken into consideration for job placements. Just the top applicants should be taken into consideration during the recruiting process, which should be transparent. If tribalism is sufficiently addressed, the primary source of the conflicts will have been neutralised, and over time, governance should improve, corruption should decline, skilled citizens should return home, investment should be encouraged, developments should take place, and living standards will probably rise. Most critically, Zambia will be free of tribal conflict.

Moreover, residents must be made aware of the fact that tribal politicisation has failed to keep Zambia politically ossified. While these awareness-raising initiatives are being carried out in Zambia, civic education is also essential for their critical comprehension, the ability to make good decisions, or the promotion of their public active participation in efforts to end tribal politicisation.

To stop tribal politicisation, a clear strategy and policies must be created. The government’s job is to take appropriate action and respond to pressing situations in a way that meets the demands of the general population.

It is important to support every citizen’s right to fairness and justice in politics, regardless of the country, state, or tribe to which he or she belongs.

Tribal elders’ influence in politics ought to be curtailed and restricted to traditional and customary matters. Furthermore, in order to maintain the effectiveness of a democratically legitimate administration, accountability and openness must be ensured.



Learn about some ethnic groups in Zambia ☝☝☝.