Rulers using intimidation must resign – Phiri

THE Civil Society Constitution Agenda says President Edgar Lungu’s remarks in Mbala in which he refused to dialogue with the opposition UPND over rising tension in the country are very unfortunate and regrettable.

And CiSCA mobilisation chairperson Nicolas Phiri says leaders using threats and intimidation to silence citizens with divergent views must step down from their positions for the country’s democracy to thrive.

Speaking at a press briefing in Lusaka yesterday, Phiri wondered how the Head of State expected to achieve the ‘One Zambia One Nation’ motto when he did not want to dialogue with his opponents.

Phiri, who expressed disappointment over the inhumane manner in which UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema was arrested, expressed concern over the country’s current political and democratic space which was being suffocated with arbitrary arrests and threats.

He further said the current PF regime was full of contradictions, inconsistencies, incoherencies and incorrect statements when it came to upholding national values and principles as provided for in Article 8 sub section (b) of the Constitution.

Phiri further said President Lungu’s Mbala statement fundamentally differed with what he said in Parliament a few weeks earlier.

“CiSCA finds the statement from the President very unfortunate and regrettable especially that he has been promoting the motto ‘One Zambia One Nation’. How does he expect to achieve this motto when he does not want to dialogue with his opponents? The current political and democratic space is being suffocated with arbitrary arrests, threats, intimidation, oppression and suppression outside the realms of executive power, which is most unfortunate,” Phiri said.

“Allow us to comment on events surrounding the UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema. While we cannot comment on reasons for his arrest, we want to express concern on the manner in which the arrest was effected. The kind of treatment we witnessed does not resonate well with our national values as contained in Article 8 of our constitution which was given national weight and emphasis by President Edgar Lungu’s State of the Nation address on 17th March 2017 on national values and ethics and also on Zambia’s claims that it is a Christian nation as declared in the preamble of our Constitution.”

He said it was therefore hard for CiSCA to believe President Lungu’s statement in Mbala when he was known to be an “accomplished statesman and humble Christian”.

“CiSCA does not believe such a statement is coming from an accomplished statesman as our President is and a humble and Christian man who is after building not only a united country but also a global new world order as per his address of the UN General Assembly. It is regrettable and undemocratic for the President to negate his speech to the UN and to use emotions when attempting to address issues affecting the nation. CiSCA wants to remind the President that diplomats accredited to Zambia have a duty to intervene when human rights and democracy are under threat in any country. It must be put on record that intervention is different from interference in a sovereign State. Therefore, the President’s statements that, we quote, ‘I want the diplomats to hear me loud and clear that they will not interfere with our sovereign matters here in Zambia’ to be misplaced,” he added.

And Phiri asked leaders who were using threats and intimidation to silence citizens with divergent views to step down from their current national positions.

“CiSCA is firmly stating so because issues of human rights stopped being a sovereign matter on 10th December 1948 at the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Zambia formally joined in December 1964 and committed itself to uphold human rights in Zambia. In this regard, CiSCA will engage diplomats, churches and other relevant stakeholders to help in reminding the government to uphold and respect human rights in the execution of statutory duties,” he added.

“CiSCA is further disturbed by media reports that President Lungu threatened that he could declare a state of emergency and allow soldiers to beat up Zambian citizens. We wish to remind him that beating or corporal punishment by the police officers was declared unconstitutional in the case of Banda Vs The People in 1999 as the judge found it inconsistent with Article 15 of the Bill of Rights of the Zambian Constitution. Article 15 of the Zambian Bill of Rights is non-derogable, which means that it cannot be suspended even in the state of emergency situation. The protection of people from inhuman treatment is reaffirmed in the Convention on the Elimination of Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (CAT) Article 16 to which Zambia is a state party. Those leaders who do not want to respect the country’s democracy should resign from their position or better step down.”

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