COMESA elections observers hopeful of peaceful elections

THE Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) elections observer mission says it will witness various phases of the electoral cycle and has expressed hope that Zambia will keep its culture of peace.

COMESA head of elections observer mission Ashraf Gamal Rashed said this yesterday in Lusaka before the launch and flag off of 12 observer teams to seven provinces of the country such as North-Western, Lusaka, Southern, Eastern, Western, and Central as well as Copperbelt.

Mr Rashed said that the mission would endeavour to witness the various stages of the electoral cycle such as political campaigns, voting, vote counting and declaration of results.

He said that the mission representatives had been drawn from several COMESA member States, the East African Community (EAC) and the COMESA Electoral Management Bodies Forum.

Mr Rashed, who is also a member of the COMESA Committee of Elders, said that the observers would consult stakeholders such as political parties, providers of security, the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), the media, Civil Society Organisations as well as exchange views with other election observer missions and the diplomatic community. “We shall dispatch 12 observer teams to seven out of the ten Provinces, namely North-Western, Copperbelt, Eastern, Western, Southern, Central and Lusaka Province,’’ he said.

He said that the body drew its mandate to observe elections from one of the fundamental principles as enshrined in Article 6(h) of the COMESA Treaty which stated that ‘’ the promotion and sustenance of a democratic system of governance in the Member States.

And chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, has deployed an African Union Election Observation Mission (AUEOM) to Zambia from 1 – 15 August to observe the general elections.

The mission would be led by former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, and comprises 45 short term observers (STOs) and 10 long term observers (LTOs).

According to a statement issued by the African Union on their official website, the deployment of observer mission followed an invitation by the Government.

The mission includes high profile personalities and experts drawn from the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), African ambassadors to the AU in Addis Ababa, election management bodies and civil society organisations from various African countries.

The mission would be supported by technical staff from the African Union, PAP and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA).

Objectives of the AUEOM are to make an independent, objective and impartial assessment of the 2016 general elections and offer recommendations for improvement.

“The missions also demonstrated the AU’s interest in support of Zambia’s elections and democratisation process and to ensure that the conduct of genuine elections would contribute to the consolidation of democratic governance, peace and stability in the country.

“The arrival of the mission follows a pre-election assessment mission by the African Union which visited Zambia from May 8 – 17 2016 to assess the pre-election environment in the country,” the statement read.

The Mission is expected to meet with various State institutions, the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), political parties, civil society and other stakeholders.