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Ethnicity, Politics and Zambian Youth

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Roberts Derek, Silwamba Simusa,
Project Ethnic Power Relations and Conflict in Fragile States
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Contemporary Social Science
Volume (Issue) 12(3-4)
Page(s) 189 - 201
Title of proceedings Contemporary Social Science
DOI 10.1080/21582041.2017.1385831


Zambia is a very young nation in the midst of economic and political turbulence. The current trials are exacerbated by a youth bulge. Zambian youth have been exposed to a globalising world, and their expectations often exceed the current realities of the country. The country’s economy has been decimated by daily power outages and falling copper prices. The fragile democracy has seen ethnic politics expand in the face of two presidential elections in less than two years. There have been concerns about the potential for increased political and ethnic violence as a result of these financial and political challenges. In this article, we draw upon a survey of 419 public university students in order to uncover how ethnic identities contribute to the democratic landscape for the nation’s youth. We find that Zambian youth consider ethnicity to be an important part of personal identities, but they do not believe ethnicity should be a political factor. Contrary to this desire, the youth overwhelmingly perceive politicians to be engaging in political tribalism. The data suggest that the youth’s widespread dissatisfaction with the perceived ethnic politics has contributed to lower voter turnouts, especially among Zambia’s largest tribe.