Professor Imbrahim Gambari says constitutional and institutional reforms are key among the issues proposed to be addressed during the dialogue process between President Edgar Lungu and opposition UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema.

At a press briefing in Lusaka today, Professor Gambari said he had proposed a time frame with the agreed structures to be established in December 2017 and that the dialogue process would formally commence in January 2018.

“During this visit, I shared elements of a broad strategy, based on the feedback from the extensive consultations I had previously. I have invited stakeholders to consider this strategy and provide me with their comments in order that we are best able to address the key issues that were conveyed to me during my last visit. We have been able to broadly categorise the key issues as constitutional and institutional reforms, electoral reform and the need to institutionalise a culture of tolerance and civility in politics. In setting the broad outlines of this proposed strategy, I am mindful of the need to ensure national ownership, sustainability and inclusivity. Therefore, the strategy must be further discussed and fine-tuned by national stakeholders,” Professor Gambari said.

“I have proposed to stakeholders a dialogue strategy with several layers for consideration, Including; dialogue between the ruling party and the United Party for National Development; Dialogue within a broader working group comprising of representatives of registered political parties (under the aegis of the Zambia Center for Inter party Dialogue), the Electoral Commission of Zambia, Civil Society Organisations, religious institutions, traditional leaders, the intelligentsia, the police, Parliament and the Ministry of Justice; and a steering committee which could comprise of of people of integrity nominated by political parties, traditional leaders, Church leaders and persons nominated by civil society. Given the importance of national ownership, the role of the Zambia Center for Inter party Dialogue would be essential in supporting this broader dialogue.”

Professor Gambari also proposed for the initiation of targeted capacity building workshops for the police and security services, political parties and other civil society organisations to help the country unite alongside the dialogue process.

“I am also proposing, for consideration that alongside the dialogue process, targeted capacity building workshops are held for the police and security services, political parties, civil society and the media. The strategy also proposes that the dialogue also culminates in the establishment of a National Peace Architecture for high-level conflict prevention in Zambia in the long term. I have also proposed a time frame and milestones with the proposal that the agreed structures be established in December 2017 and that the dialogue process formally commences in January 2018. as I have stated in the past, the road ahead will be full of challenges but I would like to encourage political leaders and other stakeholders to remain focused, committed and supportive of the environment conducive to a constructive, results-driven dialogue process. I am glad that President Lungu and Mr Hichilema, as well as a cross section of stakeholders, remain fully committed to this dialogue process,” said Professor Gambari.

Meanwhile, the envoy in charge of Politics at the Commonwealth Secretariat Koffi Sawyer said the dialogue would also address the ambiguities in the Constitution.

“For the Constitutional and institutional reforms, the issues will be definition of the 14 days in which petitions should be heard by the Constitutional Court as in when does the 14 days begin and when does it end. About the weekends in between. Then secondly, clarifying the relationship between the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court. Three, addressing ambiguities if any in the Constitution and reviewing the Public Order Act and how it is enforced by the police; strengthening the independence of the Judiciary, depoliticisation of the police force. In other words, the promotion of impartial policing; next reform of the media sector to address the issue of biasses, partisanship, allegations of unprofessionalism; the independence of the Electoral Commission of Zambia and then also building the capacity of political parties to enable them to play their role more responsibly and effectively,” said Sawyer.