Living in denial


WE ARE shocked that the Oasis Forum can rubbish the need for a Commission of Inquiry into the violence before, during and after the August general elections. Maybe its members have just arrived from another planet where they went to hibernate during this bitter and dark patch of our history. To help them come down to earth with a thud, yes there was violence, ugly scenes of violence, in which lives were lost, families displaced and property destroyed. Several party cadres, especially from the ruling party, were killed and some suspects are appearing in courts of law in connection with these brutal murders. Even worse, a  tribal orgy of destruction swept some parts of Southern Province during the announcement of the election results as it became clear that the ruling Patriotic Front and its candidate Edgar Lungu were winning the election. Scores of families originating from other parts of the country where the ruling party was dominant were violently and ruthlessly hunted down, some badly beaten, some evicted from their homesteads, their houses burnt together with their properties and hundreds of them ran into the bush to hide for days or sought shelter in schools and churches. It is always imperative that where there is loss of life an inquest is held, what more with so many deaths and loss of property. For whom are the Oasis members speaking and who are they protecting? Is it because the victims are nonentities that their suffering and death  should pass unchallenged? As we write this some of the victims of this horror have not yet been resettled. Many of them have lost everything they owned and have nothing left for them to begin afresh. This monstrosity, carried out in the name of politics by UPND cadres, has left a deep scar on the conscience of the nation. For the four eminent persons who signed that Oasis Forum letter yesterday to deny that violence ever occurred during the 2016 election or trivialize it, is not only unfortunate but such a huge disappointment. For the Council of Churches in Zambia, the Non-Governmental Organizations Coordinating Council,  the Law Association of Zambia and the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops to associate themselves with such a statement is to shamelessly deny that those who died in the violence ever lived or that in fact they deserved to die. What drives a human being to sink so low? This is why President Edgar Lungu felt strongly that instead of playing the blame game it was imperative that an independent tribunal of eminent citizens is appointed to delve into the nitty-gritty of the causes of the violence, find the culprits and their motive, the extent of the violence and how many of the victims need State aid. For Zambians to learn lessons from what happened and avoid a repeat in future elections, it was important for the findings of the tribunal report to name some of the culprits and recommend action to be taken against them to deter others from such savage conduct. The tribunal would also raise deeper issues regarding the role of law enforcement officers in the entire campaign period and, more critically, recommend what to do with the controversial Public Order Act. It is not enough to say, as the Oasis Forum claims, that the electoral violence was caused by a ‘‘deficient’’ POA, biased application of the law and lack of an impartial and independent police service. If this were so, why is the police biased and what should be done to change it? You need a competent authority such as a tribunal to bring these issues to the fore. If indeed, as the Forum says, people are created equal and their views, whether we agree with them or not, must be heard and accommodated, then it goes without saying that the suggestion by the President that a Commission of Inquiry was necessary into the recent electoral violence, must not be rubbished or trivialized by his civic or political opponents. President Lungu too deserves to be heard. After all he is the President of the 14 million Zambians. His opinion matters.