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Church \ Church in Africa

Zambia: Church and civil society condemn state violence against citizens and media

Zambian Police patrolling in Lusaka's Chawama Compound - AFP

Zambian Police patrolling in Lusaka's Chawama Compound - AFP

19/10/2016 17:57

Oasis Forum Chairperson, Fr Cleophas Lungu has condemned the Zambian government’s attempt to diminish space for dissent in the country.

Speaking on behalf of other Oasis Forum Convenors, Fr. Cleophas said in a statement made available to the Africa Service of Vatican Radio that the Zambian government needs to respect the freedoms of citizens.

“The Oasis Forum is becoming increasingly alarmed at the trend of political intimidation and physical attacks against citizens and members of the private media, most recently against Komboni Radio and Prime TV and generally the violation of human rights on Zambian citizens.” He added, “We believe that violence of this nature has no place in a Christian democracy such as ours. We recall the intimidation of the Post Newspaper and the Muvi TV. These attacks appear to be an attempt by the government to diminish dissenting voices of citizens to achieve their own end. The Republic of Zambia is still a constitutional democracy. For democracy to thrive, basic human rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of movement and freedom of association must be allowed to exist without impediment,” Fr. Lungu said.

The Oasis Forum is a national platform and alliance of Church and civil society organisations. It comprises the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ); Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ);  Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB); Non-Governmental Coordinating Council (NGOCC) and the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ).

According to the Oasis Forum, the causes of violence in Zambia are well-known and the state should just put a stop to the intimidation and violence against citizens by government agencies.

The causes of violence include, “ having a deficient Public Order Act as well as the biased application of it, the lack of an independent and impartial Police Service and [not] allowing citizens the freedom of expression and freedom of association, use of hate speech and playing of the tribal tag, as well as allowing cadres mainly from the ruling [political] party to manage and control public places such as bus stations and markets instead of the Local Government. Thus, those who have been entrusted with the instruments of power must be seen to be addressing these cardinal issues in a fair and unbiased manner. We believe that our national resources could be better spent on more productive activities,” states the Oasis Forum.

(Email:engafrica@vatiradio.va)

Find below the full Oasis Forum Statement.

PRESS STATEMENT BY THE OASIS FORUM DATED 19TH OCTOBER 2016 ON THE RISING INTOLERANCE AGAINST FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND ASSOCIATION IN ZAMBIA

POLITICAL INTIMIDATION

The Oasis Forum is becoming increasingly alarmed at the trend of political intimidation and physical attacks against citizens and members of the private media, most recently against Komboni Radio and Prime TV and generally the violation of human rights on Zambian citizens. We welcome the apology of the Republican Vice-President over the unfortunate remarks that the assault of journalist Lesa Nyirenda was warranted as we believe that violence of this nature has no place in a Christian democracy such as ours. We recall the intimidation of the Post Newspaper and the Muvi TV. These attacks appear to be an attempt by government to diminish dissenting voices of citizens to achieve their own end. The Republic of Zambia is still a constitutional democracy. For democracy to thrive, basic human rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of movement and freedom of association must be allowed to exist without impediment. This allows for the free flow of information to the Zambian citizens as well as the Zambian government who will subsequently be in a better position to understand what it is that the Zambian people need and want. Democracy also demands that everyone should be heard whether their views are in tandem with the status quo or not. All people are created equal and therefore their views, whether we agree with them or not, must be heard and accommodated in a democratic dispensation.

URGENT NEED FOR ENACTMENT OF THE ENHANCED BILL OF RIGHTS

We believe that the unfortunate series of events exemplifies the need for the introduction of an enhanced Bill of Rights to address some of the shortfalls in our current Constitution such as the lack of the right against arbitrary detention which is evident currently, the right to media freedoms and the right to freedom of information. Whilst we appreciate that the referendum on the proposed and enhanced Bill of Rights was not successful, we believe that 2 this was due to the inopportune timing of it and a lack of awareness as to the importance of having an enhanced Bill of Rights. We cannot stress enough how crucial it is to the welfare of the Zambian people that resources be found to conduct another referendum as soon as possible. We strongly believe that the said referendum must be people driven and avoid any connotation of spearheading a partisan agenda.

PROPOSED REFINEMENT OF THE 2015 AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION

Regarding the proposed refinement of the 2016 amendments to the Constitution, we must emphasise that any refinement of the Constitution must be done in order to make the drafting of it clearer and always in line with the will of the Zambian people as expressed in the Technical Committee’s Final Report of October 2014. We therefore believe that the process of refinement should not include the removal or addition of any clauses in the Constitution which are contrary to what the will of the people is, as expressed in the stated Technical Committee’s Final Report and without consulting the people of Zambia. We also believe that the terms of reference for the process of refinement should be guided and protected by a statute to ensure that the process is free from political interference.

PROPOSED COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON PRE AND POST ELECTION VIOLENCE

The Oasis Forum also believes that there is no need for the proposed Commission of Inquiry with regard to violence before, during and after the August 2016 General Elections. In our opinion, the reasons behind the said electoral violence are well known and include having a deficient Public Order Act as well as the biased application of it, the lack of an independent and impartial Police Service and the lack of allowing the citizens freedom of expression and freedom of association, use of hate speech and playing of the tribal tag, as well as allowing cadres mainly from the ruling party to manage and control public places such as bus stations and markets instead of the Local Government. Thus, those who have been entrusted with the instruments of power must be seen to be addressing these cardinal issues in a fair and unbiased manner. We believe that our national resources could be better spent on more productive activities.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, we urge the government to refrain from taking any action or making any utterances that may undermine the image and reputation of the country as a beacon of democracy and the rule of law. It is quite evident that Zambians are currently divided on political lines. We urge the government and all citizens to help foster a spirit of genuine dialogue, reconciliation, peace and unity in the nation. United we stand, divided we fall.

(signed)

 Fr Cleophas Lungu

CHAIRPERSON – OASIS FORUM

Issued on 19th October, 2016 in Lusaka on behalf of Convenors

1. Rev. Suzanne Matale – General Secretary (CCZ)

2. Ms Linda Kasonde – President (LAZ)

3. Ms Sarah Longwe – Board Chairperson (NGOCC)

4. Fr. Cleophas Lungu – Secretary General (ZCCB)

 

19/10/2016 17:57