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Political violence: how can the environment be made safe?

[By Lucy Musonda]

ZAMBIA returns to the polls on August 12, 2021. And this brings about memories of irregularities and uncomfortable scenes of the 2016 elections. It is hoped that this year’s elections will be better than the previous ones. It must be noted from the onset that it is the duty of government and every citizen to protect people’s right to life. Thus, the State, political parties and main actors in the electoral process should ensure that they put in place measures to promote peace and safe elections in August 2021.

As seen from the previous acts of violence, the category of people that is very much involved in such acts are youths. Political leadership is said to be responsible for young people’s inclination to act violently (Kabale Mukunto, 2019). For instance, in West Africa, the concept of ‘Godfatherism’ is relatively common. According to Akpan (2015), Godfathers are influential politicians who command respect in public because of their material possessions, wealth and charisma. Further, others claim that Godfathers remain a factor in the perpetuation of political violence through their financial support of young people (Okafor 2017).

Therefore, government needs to put in place measures that would assist in having a safe political environment, such as monitoring and education of the masses that should be on a long term (Mukunto 2019). This means that political parties and the government should start now to educate political candidates and people about having peaceful elections and the implications of violence during that period. The resultant peaceful elections would attract youths and women to join political parties. Additionally, Zambia would be a great example to other States facing political violence.

The media has been one of the victims of political violence in Zambia. A very good example is the closure of Prime Television on April 8, 2020. The television station documented and published all violence episodes involving the two major political parties, PF and the UPND, that mainly led the government to decide to close down the television channel, although those violent acts were covered by radio stations and newspapers as well.

If young politicians are educated on planning how they can develop the State rather than having them engage in physical violence, there would be less violence and women would be very much encouraged to participate in politics.

Therefore, the public, in the forthcoming elections, is looking forward to a peaceful and a calm environment. This will enable citizens to exercise their right to vote freely; it will also motivate women to join political parties and take up influential positions.

The author is a part-time legal intern at the Free Press Initiative Zambia. The FPI is currently working with women and youth political participants across the country under the “Zambia Decides” project funded by the Carter Centre, to capacitate them ahead of the August 12, 2021 elections.

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