Laura Miti, an activist in Zambia © Laura Miti/Facebook

Laura Miti: “My dream is a Zambia which lifts itself up”

Laura Miti is one of six Zambian activists, including the rapper Pilato, arrested for carrying out a peaceful protest. They are currently on trial, charged with disobeying lawful orders. They were demanding accountability for the purchase of 42 fire trucks for $42 million dollars by the government.

When a country has a government that has an undemocratic character, it is the right and duty of citizens to fight back and reclaim democratic space. Dictatorial regimes only give as much as is demanded by citizens. It is the duty of Zambians to defend their democratic space today so that the younger generation can find the free Zambia we all deserve and want.

Zambia has a reputation of being a shining example of a growing democracy, it is currently in a bad space. We are regressing.

Freedom of expression has become increasingly repressed in Zambia, especially under the current government. The Public Order Act is used to prevent any gathering that is seen as critical of the government. Gatherings and protests in support of the ruling party, some of them with participants carrying lethal weapons, can continue, but private citizens and civil society organizations are threatened with arrest. Archaic laws are used to arrest citizens who criticize the president on social media.

Activism, which was very robust in previous years has reduced, with people fearing arrest. But in the last few months, civil society has regrouped to push back against the shrinking civic space.

I am sad that activists are having to spend so much time and energy protecting democracy, and so little discussing the issues that are critical for the livelihoods of a very poor population. It is heart-breaking how little the current Zambian government seems to care about the situation of its poor citizens. I am also scared that we might lose this fight.

I really do not know what will happen next in this trial. I hope for an acquittal as we broke no law.

The trial takes up a lot of time. It is costly. It gets stressful

I would like this government to remember who we are as Zambians. We do not recognise this country they are trying to create. My dream is a Zambia which lifts itself up.  We desperately need to make life easier, more dignified, for the very poor.

What gives me hope is the Zambian people. We are a beautiful country, very easy on the soul. We ask for so little. It should not be denied us.