The United States of America (USA) has denounced political violence and has warned that democracy was not about silencing divergent views but tolerance and respect for views different from government policies.
The US Charge d’ Affairs David Young said he was deeply concerned by the pattern of violence among political cadres and the harassment of those who disagree with government policies and condemned the selective application of the Public Order Act.
He said it was regrettable that the police and the PF cadres were harassing opposition political parties, civil society groups and journalists who were merely exercising their constitutional rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
Mr Young said freedom of speech, assembly and expression were fundamental rights and that democracy could only flourish when such rights were guaranteed for all citizens irrespective of their political, religious and social association.
Speaking at the USA national day, Mr Young said Zambia stood out as a stable and vibrant democracy in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) because of its peaceful, smooth and democratic transition of power.
He said during his time in Zambia he had been impressed with the country’s democratic traditions and the deep commitment of the citizens to the sanctity of democracy and their political liberties.
Mr Young advised that Zambia should never take for granted its stable and vibrant democracy because freedom was about fundamental values and interests that people shared in partnership.
The USA Ambassador said in a democracy, disagreements were settled with words and not with pangas which had characterised the PF with many of its cadres getting maimed while others have been left dead.
“Zambia stands out as a stable and vibrant democracy. At the same time, many of us are concerned by the pattern of violence among political party cadres and harassment of those who disagree with government policies. It is regrettable that police and cadres harass opposition political parties, civil society groups and journalists who are merely exercising their constitutional right to freedom of expression and assembly. Freedom of assembly and the press are fundamental rights and democracy can only flourish when these rights are guaranteed for all citizens no matter which party or group they support,” Mr Young said.
He said apart from the flourishing democracy, a vibrant and independent Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) community was crucial to democracy and national development.
The USA government urged the Zambian government to work with the civil society organisations to find a mutually acceptable solution regarding the NGO Act and the autonomy of the organisations.
“A vibrant and independent NGO community is crucial to democracy and development. We strongly encourage the Zambian government to work with the NGO community to find a mutually acceptable solution regarding NGO registration and autonomy,” Mr Young said.
The USA government said its programmes in Zambia included health, education, water, and agriculture which were a mirror to the aspirations of Zambians and pledged its moral obligations to the wellbeing of the Zambians.
He said Zambia and the USA government shared common values based on the commitment to democracy, peace, respect for human rights and the desire to see humanity lifted above poverty and discrimination.
“We are going to disagree sometimes and as friends, we will discuss candidly those issues together…but the fundamental values and interests we share undergird our partnership,” Mr Young said.
He said the American government was partnering with the Zambian government in other areas such as the Millennium Challenge Compact that would help provide clean water, sanitation and drainage for 1.2 million residents in Lusaka. And government has pledged its continued role of being a beacon of peace and stability in the region through its commitment to the principles of democracy and good governance.
Health deputy minister Chilufya Chitalu who represented the Zambian government said President Sata was committed to the principles of democracy and commended the American government for promoting democracy in Africa.