Concerns for freedom of association, assembly and expression in Zambia
The Zambia Human Rights Commission has raised concerns over violations of the right to freedom of assembly by the country’s Police Service in what it considers an ‘emerging and disturbing culture of political repression.’
A statement from the Commission’s Chairperson, Mudford Mwandenga, draws attention to the harassment of the leaders of two opposition parties, specifically Mr. Hakainde Hichilema (United Party for National Development), and Dr. Chishimba Kambwili (National Democratic Congress), during an election campaign in the Chilubi Constituency earlier this month. The leaders were forcibly evicted from the district by police at the height of the parliamentary elections to ‘pave the way’ for President Lungu’s exclusive election campaign.
The Commission, whilst recognising the Constitutional and Legislative mandate of the Zambia Police Service to maintain law and order, considers the forcible eviction of key opposition leaders from the Chilubi district a gross violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms, which has real potential to undermine the integrity of the Chilubi Parliamentary by-election.
The rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression, the Commission states, are ‘the life blood of a functioning multi-party democracy and their suppression raises an alarm of a de facto Police State’.
The Commission calls for genuine dialogue among leaders of all political parties aimed at creating a peaceful and conducive environment for holding of free, fair and credible 2021 elections. Furthermore, that any future dialogue must include consensus on the provisions of Public Order Bill 2019 and non-discrimination in the application of the Public Order Act.
Chairperson Mwandenga said: “The country deserves a unity of purpose and magnanimous leadership at various levers in order to preserve Zambia’s democracy, human rights, peace, unity and stability for inclusive sustainable development.”