Zambian leaders call for end to violence

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Joint declaration accuses country’s police of ‘unfair’ intereference in election campaign

By Francis Maingaila

LUSAKA, Zambia – Eighteen Zambian political leaders have signed a joint declaration to end violence which has engulfed the country ahead of elections planned for August – but have also accused the police of stoking the conflict.

According to the communique signed on March 29 by all party presidents at the end of a meeting arbitrated at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka, violence could have been avoided if the police had not taken sides in favor of the ruling party.

Leaders of political parties – including President Edgar Lungu of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) – blamed the Zambian police of inciting violence by the “unfair” implementation of the Public Order Act in favor of the ruling party.

The signatories said: “As a solution, we the undersigned agree that all political parties should be allowed to conduct their campaigns without police interference.”

All the parties pledged not only to dismantle internal party structures that support violence but also to desist from hate speech which in the past has characterized election campaigns.

Additionally, the party presidents agreed to depoliticize markets and transport hubs which have been centers of political violence.

The presidents further cautioned the press from “taking sides” when covering the election campaign claiming this would help reduce political tension in the country:

“We are aware that the media has contributed to the polarization of political parties through its conduct, and we recommend initiation of a platform for dialogue to encourage positivity and inclusive coverage of all political parties as opposed to taking sides.”

Some interest groups have commended the statement. The Southern Africa Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) Executive Director Boniface Cheembe told Anadolu Agency that Zambia cannot afford to degenerate into anarchy after cerebrating 50 years of peace and tranquility:

“The increase in political violence was turning into a crisis. The outcome of the meeting gives hope that the country will hold credible and peaceful elections for as long as these resolutions are implemented effectively by relevant stakeholders.”

University of Zambia political analyst Noel Simutanyi told Anadolu Agency: “It is incumbent upon relevant stakeholders such as the police to ensure what was agreed upon … is implemented in a bid to promote various freedoms as the country prepares for the elections.”

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