A letter from Dustin Ellington In Zambia
September 27, 2011
A quick update on last week’s elections in Zambia: They went well, the country voted in a new president from a new political party (the previous party had been in power for 20 years, so this was no small feat), and the entire country seems to be flying high. There is a lot of goodwill on the streets, many people walk with an extra spring in their step, and Zambians are rightfully proud to be an African country modeling for its neighbors a peaceful transition of power.
We thank you for your prayers; even though things went as well as could be expected, the Red Cross still reports that there were over 140 people injured in election-related violence. Parts of Lusaka and other cities definitely were unsafe at some points between the elections on Tuesday and the announcement of results very early Friday morning. The U.S. Embassy advised Americans in one large area of Zambia to remain indoors, behind locked doors, and away from windows. However, once the election results were finally announced, the country simply erupted in celebration.
I was still awake, listening to the radio, at 12:30 am on Friday when the results were announced. The election official hadn’t even finished her statement when I heard the large Kaunda Square “compound” (Zambia’s version of a South African “township”) a kilometer down the road from us erupt in cheers. The cheers, firecrackers, and vuvuzela horns (remember them from the World Cup?) continued all through the night…they were still going strong when we got up in the morning! Meanwhile, many people from the Kaunda Square compound ran, barefooted in many cases, the five miles or so down Lusaka’s main road to the Mulungushi Conference Center, where the votes were being counted. They stayed there all night, celebrating. In the morning they made their way a couple of miles down another road to the Supreme Court grounds to simply be on site for President Sata’s swearing in. A friend along the route sent his wife a text message: “100,000 people walking past our office right now.”
Later on Friday, when I ventured beyond our college gate for the first time since Tuesday’s election, I was greeted with honks, cheers, and shouts of “Don’t Kubeba!” which was the catch phrase for the newly elected president. Faces were glowing throughout the grocery store. I somehow dropped my phone on the way out, and a man followed me clear across the parking lot to return it to me. Zambia continues to be permeated by a spirit of goodwill in this new week, as well.
A lot of the joy is pride in having a system that “works.” It cannot be taken for granted in Africa that elections will be free and fair. (When we lived in Egypt, President Mubarak used to get 97 percent of the vote every time!) It also cannot be taken for granted in Africa that the previous leader will actually leave office when voted out. Here the sitting president, Rupiah Banda, not only conceded defeat but gave a very gracious concession speech, full of goodwill toward the victor and a call to pray for him and support him. The victor, President Michael Sata, also set aside the competitive spirit of the campaign with his inauguration speech, which took place just 14 hours after the results were announced. Sata thanked the outgoing president for his service to the country and called upon God and all Zambians to help him lead the country well, acknowledging that he cannot do it on his own. We appreciate this humility, and definitely want to be praying for President Sata to lead in God’s strength and wisdom, not his own.
So, thank you for all of your prayers for Zambia. God has answered them graciously, and may He continue to smile on Zambia and help Zambia to live out her self-declared calling as a “Christian nation” more deeply and fully.
Sherri and Dustin Ellington
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 66
The 2012 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 105