Zambia: National Prayers Good for Zambia

THE United Party for National Development (UPND) and the whole pack of political opposition outfits unfortunately are making appropriate news headlines for all the wrong reasons slanted to sway the attention of the electorates.

Well, it is absurd to some extent to discredit their standpoints especially now as the country was now steadily heading towards the August 11 general elections.

United Party for National Development (UPND) president Hakainde Hichilema recently refused to sign a commitment to a peace accord prescribed by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to compel aspiring presidential candidates and their parties to maintain peace during the on-going campaigns raises yet more significant issues of public interest.

President Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front (PF), Edith Nawakwi of the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD), Maxwell Mwamba of Democratic Assembly, Andyford Banda (People’s Alliance for Change) and United National Independence Party leader Tilyenji Kaunda, who was represented by his running-mate Njekwa Anamela, all signed the document.

Green Party president Peter Sinkamba, Saviour Chishimba of the United Progressive Party, and Rainbow Party’s Wynter Kabimba refused to assent to the accord.

The signing of the agreement was done at an indaba called by the ECZ and witnessed by Church leaders and cooperating partners at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka recently.

Eight of the nine aspiring presidential candidates in next month’s general elections attended the event while Mr Sinkamba sent an apology indicating that he was unable to physically be present.

Mr Hichilema’s arrival at the meeting was characterised by commotion as he argued with police officers who advised him to exclude some party members from his delegation since the venue for the meeting could only accommodate a limited number of people at a time.

He said he would only assent to the accord on condition that the ECZ availed him the contents of the document which should pledge that his party would be accorded ‘fairness’ in the campaigns.

“This meeting has not resolved the root cause of political violence.

It was merely a public relations scheme for the PF.

“So why should I sign something which will not even be implemented just like has been the case with that agreement signed with the three Church mother bodies at our meeting at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in March?” Mr Hichilema asked.

After the meeting, Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia executive director Pukuta Mwanza and Northmead Assemblies of God church overseer Joshua Banda tried to reason with Mr Hichilema, but the opposition leader was adamant in defending his decision not to sign the agreement.

Dr Chishimba and Mr Kabimba did not give reasons why they did not sign the agreement.

Ms Nawakwi and Mr Banda said their parties assented to the accord because they were peace-loving organisations.

President Lungu described the meeting as successful, saying the participants were given an opportunity to put across different opinions.

ECZ chairperson Esau Chulu said he hoped the candidates would sign the accord so that the remainder of the campaign period was peaceful.

Mr Justice Chulu said he expected all the candidates to abide by the Electoral Code of Conduct, including those in Lusaka and Namwala where campaigns would resumed after a 10-day suspension by the ECZ due to violence.

Among other stakeholders who attended the meeting were Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja, Commonwealth special adviser on political dialogue Ibrahim Gambari, and United Nations resident coordinator in Zambia, Janet Rogan.

The Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue, Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council and Young African Leaders Initiative were also represented.

The major opposition political outfits have the stamina to shun such important undertakings that affects the future of our democracy. Those that signed the ECZ peace accord have demonstrated their commitment to peace to prevail during the upcoming elections for the benefit of all Zambians and preservation of our most cherished democracy.

Ms Nawakwi says she appended her signature to the Peace Accord because she aversion violence in all its ugly forms because she was a mother — a custodian of society.

To her, ECZ should unleash stringent penalties against culprits fanning political violence so that innocent lives are protected.

As for those who failed to sign the Accord, Mr Hichilema argued that he could only sign the agreement after outstanding benchmarks that boggle his opposition outfit were met to his satisfaction.

To many political observers, however, it is cardinal that aspiring presidential candidates and their parties maintain peace during the on-going campaigns.

Out of the violent acts charcaterising campaigns, FDD calls on ECZ to impose stiff punishment on violent political parties to allow peaceful and fair elections on August 11.

Furthermore, FDD and its supporters knows that violence was against democratic principles.

FDD spokesperson Antonio Mwanza said ECZ should consider banning political parties and the candidates who committed violence in order to stop escalation of violence.

He said the recurrence of political violence and eventual suspension of election campaigns by ECZ in Lusaka and Namwala had worked against parties such as FDD which had committed to conducting peaceful campaigns.

He said this in an interview in Lusaka yesterday.

“ECZ knows which parties are violent. We urge them to take action against the culprits of violence so that people can campaign and vote peacefully in the elections,” Mr Mwanza said.

Mr Mwanza urged ECZ to apply the law equitably in its efforts to quell political violence ahead of the elections next month.

Shadreck Sichula, a Ndola based political commentator, argues that the fear to append signatures on the peace accord was a serious miscalculation by some opposition political parties because it demonstrate their commitment to perpetuate violence and cast a blind eye on the savage political acts perpetuated by their cadres under the eyes.

“They should have committed themselves to enhancing peace as the country approaches the general elections unlike pretending that they are better off despite the violence surfacing during the elections meant to propel them into national leaders.

“Alas, they have showed the nation that peace was not a matter of concern to them, let alone the country but the issue of hunger to penetrate the State House corridors of power was major factor to them, a highly misplace priority at the expense of Zambians,” the ardent political observer propounds.

That is the way to trudge to the final countdown to August 11 general elections and other political player should strive to emulate other leaders in the right thinking.

Only political hypocrites bent on parading the corridors of power would disagree and vent their deficiencies to attain national authority at all cost overshadowing the plight of those that elect them to public positions of national governance.

A shame indeed to all political charlatans who have failed to rally behind initiatives tallied to quench the fires of political violence that were beheading the present vector of political campaigns.

Fortunately, UPND has timely recinded its decision to shun the national prayers and it is hoped that others could emulate UPND. The day for national prayers has been set for tommorrow at the Inpendence Stadium in Lusaka as well as provincial and district centres across the country.

Source: The Times of Zambia.