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SACCORD urges HH to set tone of security for human rights defenders

THE Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) says it expects President Hakainde Hichilema to set a tone that will promote a leadership anchored on unity, harmony, tolerance, co-existence, and peace that prioritises the wishes and the desires of the people as he opens the first session of the 13th National Assembly today.

Executive director Boniface Cheembe said as the President should address issues of peace and security in different sectors of the society.

Cheembe said Zambia had always and continues to pride herself in being a peaceful nation.

He said following a heated and divisive election period that was characterised by vicious acts of electoral violence, there was now a greater need for the country to deliberately invest in peace and security.

“We expect the President to be extensive in outlining a vision that will restore greater peace and security for the country especially in communities that tend to be at the receiving end of political violence,” Chembe said. “We expect our MPs to be honourable by ensuring that Parliament grounds are never a place that foster violent communication or political violence, but rather an institution that promotes peace through respectful conduct. We also expect our MPs to desist from taking strong partisan lines on matters that are of importance to the nation such as supporting legal initiatives that promote and protect human rights defenders, among others. And lastly, we expect the President to set a tone that will promote a leadership anchored on unity, harmony, tolerance, co-existence, and peace that prioritises the wishes and the desires of the people. We wish him the very best as he opens Parliament.”

He said SACCORD expects the President to set a strong tone of providing ample security for human rights defenders as they execute their mandates.

Chembe said President Hichilema had already shown political will to guarantee human rights for all and that SACCORD expects to hear stronger policy pronouncements on promoting and strengthening legislation for the protection of human rights defenders in the country.

“Human rights defenders must feel secure to conduct their human rights work with the full knowledge that there is a legal framework that protects their well-being,” he said.

Cheembe said SACCORD expected the President to clearly lay out his and the ruling UPND vision on how they intend to reform the archaic public order Act (POA) which had been a source of conflict for many decades in the country.

He said the vision must highlight the past problems in reforming it and the new measures to be undertaken to reform the law so that it becomes a source of unity, harmony, and tranquillity in the nation.

“We further expect the President to highlight a clear timeframe in amending this law so that stakeholders can prepare themselves in contributing to its reform,” he said.

Cheembe said SACCORD had taken note of the President’s directive to end the era of cadres controlling public facilities such as markets and bus stations.

He said the control of such public facilities by cadres was a serious source of political violence in the country.

“We expect the President to provide a clear strategy on ending cadreism and thuggery over the control of public facilities. In so doing, we expect the President to lay out an alternative path to productive engagement by these cadres as they transition from controlling public facilities and in the process create chaos, to performing orderly and gainful activities that foster peace,” he said.

He said SACCORD expects the President to set the tone for how the shortcomings in the Amended Constitution No.2 of 2016 would be addressed.

“The vision on constitutional amendment must demonstrate the difference in approach from that which was taken in the previous government. The failure to finalise shortcomings in the constitution have contributed to aspects of constitutional instability and it is therefore important that the President attaches a timeframe in addressing this matter,” he said.

Cheembe said the country had made slow progress in implementing the decentralisation policy which had a serious bearing on the quality-of-service delivery and on people’s participation in the governance process of the country.

“We expect the President to outline his vision on expediting the implementation of the decentralisation policy and the role that citizens will play in this process,” he said.

He also expects a clear vision on how agriculture would be prioritised being a major revenue stream and for providing adequate food security in the country.

“The President has already given political will in prioritising agriculture and the nation will be eager to hear the details on how the sector will be transformed,” said Cheembe.

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