The Human Rights Commission (HRC) has called on political stakeholders to seriously commit to the national dialogue and set the agenda for reconciliation, peace and unity, saying there is need for national healing before the crucial 2021 general election.

In a statement issued, Tuesday, HRC spokesperson Mweelwa Muleya condemned the spate of violence that characterised the Sesheke parliamentary by-election campaigns in Western Province, and called for serious commitment to the national dialogue process to prevent future occurrences of violence.

The Commission, who were on the ground during the whole election campaign time monitoring proceedings in Sesheke, also condemned the continued application of excessive force by the Zambia Police Service to respond to perceived or actual threat to the breach of peace.

“The Commission condemns the excessive political pressure and threats against police officers, which has resulted in unlawful and unprofessional conduct of the men and women in uniform for fear of political victimisation, such as being transferred to seemingly unfavourable places or position, or being retired in the ‘national interest’ if they disobeyed political orders. The violence and the suppression of the right to freedom of assembly that were witnessed during the campaigns for the on-going by-elections underline the imperative need for an immediate solution. To this effect, the Commission calls upon all stakeholders to immediately resolve differences over the national dialogue and set the national tone and agenda for national reconciliation, peace and unity,” Muleya appealed.

“There is need for national healing before the 2021 presidential and general elections. It is extremely disheartening that the country should continue witnessing and experiencing its own citizens trying to exercise their democratic rights and freedoms being injured, and in some cases, losing lives when such regrettable violations could easily be prevented through political leaders talking to each other and preaching peace and love for each other.”

Muleya further called for the independence of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), saying the Commission must be allowed to conduct their work professionally and legally without any influence from politicians.

“The Commission (HRC) is confident that the ECZ will continue to handle the electoral process, including the counting, transportation and collation of results of the on-going by-elections, with utmost transparency and sensitive to avoid misunderstanding and suspicion. The Commission also appeals to the leaders of the participating political parties to refrain their supporters from engaging in acts of violence and other unlawful acts, which have potential to undermine the integrity and legitimacy of the election outcome. The ECZ must be allowed to professionally and legally conduct their work without undue influence in order to uphold and protect the free expression of the will of the electorate in voting for candidates of their own choice,” insisted Muleya.