Just over a week ago, the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) convened a meeting with the secretary-generals, chairpersons for elections, youths and women from the Patriotic Front and opposition UPND; where a disarmament and peace treaty was signed.

They agreed, among other things that, it will be an offence for anyone to be found with any offensive weapons in an election area and that youths would be demilitarised during campaigns; whereby they should not be dressed in military (combat) attire, masks, etc.

Following that peace treaty, the by-election that was held in Kafue counted as one of the most peaceful polls in recent times. We were left to wonder. Is that all what our youths needed to hear from their paymasters in order to stop the violence? This is really is an indictment on our reasoning as citizens.

In our view, this is proof that we are capable of stopping the violence if we choose to. But we accept to be used like dogs by politicians, such that they can unleash us to attack one another for their political expediency. When they say ‘attack’ (like they did in Sesheke) then we attack; and when they say ‘sit’ (like they did in Kafue), then we sit. Surely, only a domesticated animal that can’t reason on its own can be used in that manner.

Our message today is directed at PF and UPND youths as well as the voters who attend campaign gatherings. It is time for Zambians to start talking to the man in the mirror. Elections are not something that anyone should die for. Campaigns are not a platform for butchering one another; it is something that people should use to trade ideas.

The violence that is happening in Zambia is not happening to President Lungu or any of his family members. It is not happening to Honourable Kampyongo or his wife. This violence is not happening to Mr Hakainde Hichilema. He and his businesses are safe, just like Mr GBM is. It is you, the poor Zambian cadre, who is a victim of this violence. Why are you being used?

Every day, we keep blaming government, saying those in power are not doing enough to stop the bloodshed. We keep blaming Mr Hichilema, Mr Lungu, Mr Chishimba Kambwili and others, that they are not doing enough. But the honest truth is that we, the victims of violence, are actually the perpetrators of the vice!

No matter how daring the situation may be, no matter how desperate they may get, the top politicians will never engage in a physical fight. President Lungu will never lift a stone to throw it at Mr Hichilema or the other way round. It is us the people who fight running battles on their behalf and get injured in the process. For how long will this continue?

It is high time that we stopped blaming government leaders; it is high time that we stopped pointing fingers at the politicians for the violence that we the youths have embraced as a means of survival. We must accept that we have a greater role to play in this violence than anyone else. We need to take the responsibility and blame ourselves because we are the ones who are directly involved in this violence.

Have we not noticed as citizens that the only change that we see around our politics only takes place on the documents? They sign peace treaties for one election and the next one, the violence resumes. They keep amending the rules of engagement and the Electoral Code of Conduct, but on the ground, the attitude doesn’t change, the hacking continues and the bloodshed goes on. Our minds as the youths of this country need to change! We need to stop interpreting elections as packs of shake-shake, T-shirts, chitenge and dancing parties.

We need a new Zambia. A Zambia that will see vigilant citizens who realize that they are the government, they are what they want to be, they hold the power to turn the country around, politically, socially and economically. We need a new Zambia that will get a new definition other than the now meaningless “beacon of democracy.” We must aspire for a new Zambia that will transcend party politics and be a shining example of economic emancipation.

Unfortunately, that new Zambia will not come with the same mind-set that we have had all these years. It will come by the changing of attitude towards one another and realizing that Zambia can be what we would like it to be. It’s not Mr Lungu who is killing us; it’s the choices that we make as the youths because we form more than 65 per cent of the country’s population.

Honourable Stephen Kampyongo, Honourable Brian Mundubile, Mr Stephen Katuka and Mr Patrick Mucheleka will sign peace treaties and panga disarmament agreements, but those documents will culminate into nothing if we the voters and youths who are directly involved in violence continue to disregard its long-term effects on us.

As we go towards the Roan and Bahati by-elections, we must ask ourselves as youths involved in these polls: are we humans or animals that can take any instructions even if those instructions are harmful to ourselves? Ba PF naimwe ba UPND, show us your humanity, please!