The Human Rights Commission (HRC) wishes to condemn the spate of violence that characterised the Sesheke Parliamentary By-election campaigns in Western Province and calls for serious commitment to national dialogue to stop similar future violence and disturbances.

The Commission is on the ground monitoring the elections in Sesheke and is deeply concerned at the violence and continued application of excessive force by the Zambia Police Service to respond to perceived or actual threat to breach of peace and order by political cadres from both the UPND and the PF.

Further, the Commission condemns the excessive political pressure and threats against police officers, which has resulted in unlawful and unprofessional conduct of the men and women in uniform for fear of political victimisation such as being transferred to seemingly unfavourable places or position, or being retired in the “national interest” if they disobeyed political orders.

The violence and the suppression of the right to freedom of assembly that were witnessed during the campaigns for the on-going by-elections underline the imperative need for an immediate solution.

To this effect, the Commission calls upon all stakeholders to immediately resolve differences over the national dialogue and set the national tone and agenda for national reconciliation, peace and unity. There is need for national healing before the 2021 Presidential and General elections.

It is extremely disheartening that the country should continue witnessing and experiencing its own citizens trying to exercise their democratic rights and freedoms being injured and in some cases losing lives when such regrettable violations could easily be prevented through political leaders talking to each other and preaching peace and love for each other.

Finally, the Commission is confident that the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) will continue to handle the electoral process, including the counting, transportation and collation of results of the on-going by-elections, with utmost transparency and sensitive to avoid misunderstanding and suspicion. The Commission also appeals to the leaders of the participating political parties to refrain their supporters from engaging in acts of violence and other unlawful acts which have potential to undermine the integrity and legitimacy of the election outcome.

The ECZ must be allowed to professionally and legally conduct their work without undue influence in order to uphold and protect the free expression of the will of the electorate in voting for candidates of their own choice.

[The Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution established under Article 230 of the Constitution of Zambian (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2016 to promote and protect Human Rights in Zambia]

Mweelwa Muleya