PRIOR to last week’s general election, Amnesty International had released a report in which it highlighted the Zambian government’s failure in upholding various human rights.
The report described the situation as critical as the country was on the brink of a human rights crisis ahead of the presidential elections.
The report, entitled “Ruling by fear and repression”, detailed how the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly had come under increasing attack particularly over the past five years, with opposition leaders and activists jailed, independent media outlets shut down, and at least five people killed by police since 2016.
It further stated there was increased brutal crackdown on human rights, characterised by brazen attacks on any form of dissent.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s director for East and Southern Africa noted that opposition leaders, journalists, media houses and activists were targeted, and that speaking out against allegations of government corruption or abuse had become more dangerous, while protests had been stopped or dispersed with unlawful and sometimes lethal force.
It is the right time, then, for the Human Rights Commission (HRC) to remind the President –elect and his incoming Cabinet of this past and to urge him to enhance these rights and freedoms of the citizens.
The HRC notes that while it is encouraging that Mr Hichilema has pledged to uphold the Rule of Law, Constitutionalism and Human Rights, it is important that supporters of the ruling party are also held to the same standards as the leadership in protecting these rights.
The President-elect’s message to supporters for responsible and peaceful celebration and respect for human rights, including the right to property of everyone, sets the right tone to back up the UPND’s commitment to this important aspect of governance.
There is no doubt that upholding human rights will be the first step to ending political conflict as everyone will be guaranteed of protection regardless of their political views.
One’s political views should not invite attack on their person or property, or businesses.
It may take time for these commitments by the incoming head of State to show results, but stakeholders need to embrace the new way of doing things and this starts now.
Everyone should play their part and always do the right thing in supporting human rights and upholding the law.
Organisations such as the HRC and individual citizens should also remain vigilant as watch dogs as cheerleaders to encourage government to succeed.