THE United States government has warned that statements calling for the use of force against one side in an election could escalate tension in the nation.
On Monday, Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja banned campaigns through distribution of face masks after the opposition joined what PF presidential candidate Edgar Lungu has been doing the last two weeks.
Kanganja instructed police officers to use force on the opposition if they continued with the exercise.
His order was also condemned by the Human Rights Commission, who viewed it as an order for police brutality.
Addressing journalists virtually on Wednesday, United States Embassy Chargé d’affaires David Young emphasised the need for a level playing field for all participants in the August 12 elections.
“We believe something very important, lowering the rhetoric of campaigns, is essential at this time in order to promote peace. So, statements calling for the use of force against one side in the election escalate political tensions and do not contribute to a peaceful election environment,” he said. “Zambia needs a lowering of tensions at this time. Statements that call for another party’s cadres to be arrested, but not one zone, are also not helpful. In addition, as we approach the final stretch of the campaign season before the August 12 national election, I would like to just take a moment and discuss the importance of a peaceful election, which I know is something all Zambians care about very much and are very much committed to.”
Young reiterated the importance of having a balanced electoral field.
“We’ve stated before the importance of having a balanced electoral playing field. And we’ve heard from friends across Zambia of how important this is – to have a balanced playing field. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges to the campaigns of our parties. A truly fair election requires that all parties have the same opportunities to campaign,” Young added. “Elections around the world have shown that campaigns can continue drawing Covid. Many countries have had their elections during this Covid pandemic time. The key thing is wearing mask properly; it’s the single most important thing that citizens can do to protect themselves during campaigns and elections – wearing a mask that covers nose and mouth properly.”
He commended all political parties that committed to signing the peace accord over a week ago.
Young urged respective political parties to demand equal treatment from the police and other security wings.
“We laud all political parties for their recent commitments to peace. I had the opportunity to attend the recent peace conference where party leaders from all major parties made a pledge for peace,” he said further. “And so, as friends of Zambia, we urge all party leaders and candidates to back up that pledge and call for equal treatment, both in the right to campaign and in the actions of police and security forces.”
Young also commended the Human Rights Commission for what he called a powerful statement against Kanganja’s call for the use of force.
He said the United States government looked forward to fair and peaceful elections in Zambia.
“As friends of Zambia, we want to see a peaceful election that reflects the will of the Zambian people. I’ve said it before but we’ll say it again, we do not favour one party, we do not pick winners or losers,” said Young. “And as a fellow democracy we call on all Zambians to participate, vote in a peaceful, respected process and the eventual results on August 12…This peaceful commitment before, during and after the vote is essential. And peace needs to be in all those different aspects of the election time.”