By Antonio Mwanza
Since the disputed 2016 General Elections, the nation has persistently been fed to a never-ending menu of the so called dialogue and reconciliation between Mr Hakainde Hichilema and President Edgar Lungu. Bishops, politicians, international dignitaries in the form of Barones Scotland and one Professor Bangari including peasants have all been talking about the need for HH and ECL to dialogue and reconcile.
Months have come and months have gone and all we hear about this so called dialogue between HH and ECL is from what the two leaders and their functionaries in the press and social media have been pandering but a meeting between these two leaders is fast becoming a pipedream.
To begin with, if there must be reconciliation, there must be truth and justice. You can’t keep peace by force, manipulation or falsehoods. Like Izzeldin Abuelaish once remarked, you cannot ask people to coexist by having one side bow their heads and agree to a solution that is only good for one side. If there must be reconciliation, there must be truth, fairness and justice.
As we talk about this so called dialogue and reconciliation there is need to be very clear of the connotations and implications of these words and processes. To begin with, reconciliation assumes that there has been a breakdown in the relationship, but now there has been a change from a state of enmity and fragmentation to one of harmony and fellowship.
The animosity or conflict between HH and ECL does not stem from personal differences but electoral and general governance issues; after all HH and ECL have never been friends in the first place so there is nothing form them to reconcile about at a personal level.
The animosity between these two Zambians is stemming from the electoral battle of 2016 and what has been transpiring since politically so if anyone wants the two to reconcile then any effort or dialogue must be focused on the causes of the conflict and not generalities. For HH and ECL to genuinely reconcile then the following have to be honestly and openly be addressed:
1. The electoral process, that is the management of 2016 elections vis-a-vis the conduct of the Electoral Commission of Zambia.
2. The application of the Public Order Act
3. The Electoral Process Act No.35 of 2016 and the Constitutional lacunas that have contributed to having chaotic and frankly speaking, shambolic elections
4. The conduct of the police and other institutions of governance eg the Judiciary, the Anti Corruption Commission and the public media.
5. The state of human rights and the rule of law among others.
All these issues need to be addressed head on and progressive reforms have to be made in order to achieve peace and the so called reconciliation.
So far there seems to be nothing practical or tangible being done to bring both HH and ECL to a round table. All we see and hear are accusations and counter accusations of breaches and lack of commitment to dialogue by both parties.
Unless serious efforts are quickly made for the two conflicting leaders to meet and discuss, this story of dialogue and reconciliation will soon lose meaning and will be overtaken by events. Remember, life does not allow vacuums.