Deploying soldiers now will fuel insinuations of vote rigging – Zitukule

ZITUKULE Consortium says it has noted with interest the announcement by the Zambia Army Commander Lieutenant General William Sikazwe that the military command stands ready to help the Zambia Police Service to maintain pubic peace, law and order ahead of the August 12 general elections.

In a statement, Zitukule Consortium executive director Nicholas Phiri stated that while it acknowledged the importance of a peaceful environment before, during and after elections, the national security services which include the Zambia Police Service, the Zambia Correctional Service and Zambia State Intelligence Service had all the infrastructure, resources and ability to detect, prevent and curb serious crimes, including political violence in the country.

He stated that it would not be wise to deploy soldiers specifically to man a civic activity such as a general election.

“We are aware that the Republican Constitution does provide for collaboration between and among defence forces and homeland security services. However, the conditions and context prevailing in the country today do not justify the deployment of soldiers ahead of or during the election. Like in the past, the Zambia Police Service has been able to police elections and they should be able to do the same even now given that more financial resources have been invested in homeland security in the past three years than any other time in the recent history of our country,” Phiri said. “Today, the country has security cameras dotted around the country as well as a Command Centre for Public Safety together costing the country about US $500 million, among other security infrastructure.”

He said the deployment of soldiers should be the last resort and only an option when the Zambia Police Service working together with other homeland security agencies fail to curb the situation in the country.

Phiri said premature deployment of soldiers would have a chilling effect on the electoral integrity in general, including instilling fear in the electorates in general and in rural areas in particular to freely exercise their right to vote.

Further, Phiri said the deployment of soldiers would fuel insinuations of vote rigging by the incumbent President using the military.

“It must be remembered that the incumbent is not only a presidential candidate in this election, but also the Commander-In-Chief of armed forces,” he said.

Phiri urged President Lungu to set aside partisan interests, review the performance of the Inspector General of Police, Kakoma Kanganja in line with the objectives he set for him in the six-month performance based contract which expired in June and take necessary corrective measures to bring back professionalism and public confidence in the Zambia Police Service.

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