The American government has called for an immediate end to all forms of political violence in Zambia which have reached unprecedented levels and cause for a big worry.
Charge’D’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka David Young said the recent spread of political violence was worrying and that the attacks by political cadres on UPND President Hakainde Hichilema and ABZ President Fr. Frank Bwalya on the Copperbelt Province were unacceptable, and the perpetrators should be brought to justice without delay.
Mr Young said that Zambia was a signatory to international human rights covenants that guarantee freedoms of speech, press, and assembly, and the right to be free from violence and free from interference in one’s private life.
“It is clear the attacks were perpetrated by political cadres, and political leaders must clearly direct that their supporters stop such attacks.
“We need leaders at all levels to speak out against violence, and leadership is needed at all levels of society, from political party leaders to the police to religious leaders, to ensure this trend is halted before it spins downward into a cycle of violent attacks,” he said.
Mr Young also said that the police had a sacred trust from the public to help guarantee safety and prevent cadres from attacking their political opponents, and such does not mean shutting down political rallies, but instead supporting healthy debate and preventing violent groups from hijacking democracy.
He said criticizing a political party leader is part of a democracy and not treason or disrespectful.
Mr Young also said that reconciliation required peaceful dialogue, an end to violence and honest debate,
“I was impressed to see the President of Zambia Michael Sata, former Presidents, and opposition leaders joining together on Good Friday at St. Ignatius, and then to hear the voices of political leaders and church leaders calling for a spirit of reconciliation in Zambia,” he said.
Mr Young questioned how reconciliation talk among people of faith translated into political reconciliation at a time when there was an increase in violence among party cadres and when the headlines trumpet tensions among government, opposition voices, and civil society.
He said that genuine reconciliation must start with dialogue, adding that respecting rights for all Zambians was critical to ensuring the equal treatment of all people before the law.
He said that leadership was needed at all levels of society to ensure such trend was halted before it spins downward into a cycle of violent attacks.
Mr Young said that for reconciliation to be real there must be genuine debate about what was the best road for a country’s future.
“Being reconciled means that respectful discussion and debate will take place regularly whether about the constitution or concerns about social development or just pure electoral campaigning,” he said.
Mr Young said that as Zambia moved forward to face its challenges of development politically, economically and socially, it was important to capture the spirit of reconciliation that had been seen during the Easter season week across the country.