Zambia is one of few African countries that have managed to avoid political havoc and wars in most sub-Sahara countries in nearly six decades.
Current events in that country will show whether the country will maintain that reputation.
That’s because on Friday, the leader of the main opposition party filed a court petition challenging the presidential vote in the August 11, 2016 elections.
As announced by the Electoral Commission of Zambia, the incumbent, President Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front, won 50.35 per cent of valid votes cast; Mr Hakainde Hichilema of the main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) won 47.63 per cent.
“We have filed the petition. We are asking for the nullification of the election,” Mr Gilbert Phiri, a lawyer for Hichilema’s UPND, told reporters. That’s heavy stuff.
The reasons Mr Hichilema camp gave includes that President Lungu did not win the legally required 50 per cent of votes plus one.
It’s a normal argument in hotly contested elections, especially when the margin of a winner and loser is narrow.
Mr Lungu and his supporters have to wait until the Constitutional Court’s ruling, 14 days from the petition filing date. If the court confirms him winner, he will be inaugurated. Tension remains high.
Concerned, many quarters have called for calm. A notable call came on Friday from the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops and leaders of the Council of Churches in Zambia. Both have been doing so most of this year, a call to the wilderness. The religious leaders asked the declared losers to adhere to the provisions in law for settling election disputes; the declared winners: “We also appeal to the victorious party to avoid celebrating in a manner that will incite and provoke the losing party”. Of course, logically, there’s neither yet.
Incidentally, Mr Lungu appointed “judges” to the Constitutional Court early this year. Allegations some were unqualified, including a crony, exist: A blemish.
The concern by the clergy et al is warranted.
By all accounts, political violence this was the worst during the campaign, compared with past elections.
For example! According to Armed Conflict and Even Data project, more than 50 electoral violence incidents were reported between January and June.
Deaths were few; broken limb galore.
Again, by all accounts, state institutions were biased against the opposition. And as international observers noted, the media, both private and state-controlled often reported what never was. The observers also noted irregularities throughout.
In all fairness though, it’s worth of note that Zambia has had four presidential elections in ten years, largely due to death of two incumbents in office.
That means a decade of politicking. Add other problems!
That, however, is no excuse for leaders, especially political, to join the league of “they shall have eyes and not see, ears and not hear”. Zambia’s neighbours, other than Tanzania, offer examples of what not to do.
This is particularly so for the two heavy-weights, especially Mr Lungu.
Incumbents, seeking re-election, abuse inherent powers, a recipe for disaster.
He need not preside over degeneration of what has made Zambia unique.
DAILY NATION (KENYA)