THE Southern Africa Network against Corruption says the deployment of soldiers on the streets ahead of next week’s general elections is evidence of the shrinking democratic space in Zambia.
In a statement yesterday, Emack Kaoma, the network’s programmes manager, asked President Edgar Lungu to send the soldiers back to the barracks where they belong. He added that elections are a civilian matter and involving soldiers in the manner being attempted would erode the credibility of the polls.
Kaoma noted that since the PF came into power in 2011 there had been “a gradual but systematic militarisation of civil institutions and spaces” including the state police and party cadres.
Kaoma said while it is regrettable that two lives were lost in Kanyama in circumstances that no citizens should ever lose life, this was not justification for President Lungu to deploy soldiers on the streets.
“The Kanyama occurrence represents an isolated incident of violence rather than a systematic occurrence like the gassing incidents were. We do not think that the situation at the moment in Zambia requires the deployment of soldiers. There is no security risk or crisis situation in any part of the country,” he said.
Kaoma said the deployment of soldiers has potential to scare voters and may subsequently lead to voter apathy.
“Elections are a civilian matter. Involving soldiers in elections in the manner being attempted will erode the credibility of an election as it shall be deemed not to have been held in a free and fair environment. The presence of soldiers in civilian communities is highly intimidating and creates unnecessary panic among the people,” he noted. “As a matter of urgency, we ask President Lungu to send the soldiers back to the barracks where they belong. Currently, there are very serious allegations of rigging plans. This deployment of soldiers risks playing to that narrative.”
He added that the deployment of soldiers must always be used as a last resort after the police has failed.
Kaoma further said the President must tell Zambians whether Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja had failed to execute his duties.
“In December last year, President Lungu gave Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja a six-month contract to transform the institution so that it regains public confidence and to also enable the Inspector General conclude investigations into the killing of two innocent Zambians,” Kaoma recalled. “This formed the basis for Mr Kanganja’s performance appraisal for further consideration. The six months have come and gone [but] there was no word from the President.”
He maintained that the deployment of soldiers implies that Kanganja failed in his performance appraisal and must thus be dismissed.