Zambia a Peaceful Country?
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People have defined peace in different words and perspectives around the world. Hence, this essay will discuss whether Zambia is a peaceful nation or not from a perspective of a definition of peace as, a state of law or civil governance, a state of justice or goodness and a balance or equilibrium of power.
Analyzing the positioning of Zambia on whether Zambia is peaceful or not, basing on the above definition of peace, it can be said that, Zambia is not a peaceful nation. Below is the analysis on why Zambia can be said not to be a peaceful nation.
According to Farkins (2008) “Civil Government is the proper authority for governing and enforcing laws at the local, municipal, state, or national level.” civil government also known as Civil authority can also be said to be that apparatus of the state other than its military units that enforces order.
In Zambia, the Public Order Act has continued to be used by the police and government as an extension to deny citizens the right to demonstrate and hold processions on flimsy grounds. The law has also been used against opposition political parties during political events. Furthermore, it has also been used to deny people in Zambia the right to hold processions on the pretext of public safety. Zambian Watchdog (December 11, 2012) notes that, “The manner in which the Public Order Act is being applied has brought some Concerned. For whatever reasons, it has been observed over the years that each ruling party seems to have unlimited freedom to conduct public activities of any type on any day and at any time while opposition political parties and some civil society bodies are literally discriminated against whenever they try to conduct public activities The unfair restriction of people’s liberties is breeding dangerous discontent. The Public Order Act, in its current form, has no place in our statutes. It is both repressive and anachronistic. It needs to be repealed………We believe in the
principle of equality before the law. Maintenance of law and order cannot only mean preventing opposition political parties from exercising their basic right to freedom of assembly.”
While the efforts Police service is making in combating crime, ensuring law and order, should be commended, but their enforcement of the Public Order Act leaves much to be desired. Legitimate questions are being raised about the level of professionalism in our Zambia Police Service.
The Constitution of Zambia guarantees all people in the country fundamental human rights and freedoms among which are the right to life, freedom of expression, freedom to association, movement and conscience. The Government has therefore an inescapable obligation to promote and respect the human rights of citizens. This obligation also extends to citizens to respect each other’s rights. Despite having instruments and institutions designed to promote and protect human rights, the human rights situation in Zambia is deteriorating in a manner that is causing worry. Examples include the arbitrary use of power by Government officials; intimidation and threats of arrest against leaders and individuals who speak against Government; deportations and even threats to our own Catholic priests for sermons seen as critical of government. Furthermore, NAEP (1998) writes that, “Opposition leaders are arrested, youth meetings banned, political rallies blocked by riot police, allegations of judicial interference and ministerial corruption, smear campaigns in government media and threats and lawsuits against journalists are not part of the image most people have of Zambia, supposedly one of Africa’s most peaceful democracies.”
Heiner (2011) comments that, “The feeling is that the law seems to be applied only to opposition parties and not to members of government, so it is hard to be convinced that things are ok and peace is prevailling.” Both Hichilema and Mumba, the president of the united National Political Party (UNPND) and Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) respectively, have found themselves on the wrong side of the country’s controversial Public Order Act. Both Mumba and Hichilema have been arrested several times while meeting constituents and they have been told they now need formal authorisation to hold rallies and meetings or they could face further detention. In addition, a number of civil society organizations advocating for greater civic engagement in Zambia’s ongoing constitution-making process have recently been threatened with deregistration. In addition to this, several journalists and political activists have been arrested on various charges including defamation of the President and operating unsanctioned media outlets.
Justice is the fairness of a situation and a fair treatment. Rawls (1999) defines justice as “a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, equity or fairness, as well as the administration of the law, taking into account the inalienable and inborn rights of all human beings and citizens, the right of all people and individuals to equal protection before the law of their civil rights, without discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, color, ethnicity, religion, disability, age, or other characteristics, and is further regarded as being inclusive of social justice.”
This defined type of justice is not present in zambia. The example of lack of this justice is that, in 2010, workers at Maamba Collum mine were short at by their two supervisors for going on strike to protest poor working conditions and the Zambian government did very little to protect workers’ interest but when the foreign manager of the same company was killed, the government through the Zambia police service acted swiftly to investigate and arrest the culority in the name of protecting the foreing investiment. This is not to say that foreigner should not be protected, but justice should be seen being done to all people equally.
Zambian Watchdog (December 11, 2012) reports that, arrogance, Constitutional breaches, corruption, decrees, impunity, greed, hooliganism, threats and higgledy-piggledy kind of governance are the characteristics that explicitly define President Michael Sata and his Patriotic Front (PF) hegemonic regime.It is therefore surprising that the opposition political parties, the church, civil society organizations, diplomats and individual citizens are shocked that President Sata has strongly come to the strong defence of his Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba and Defence Minister Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba who are being investigated for corruption by the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC). He also told the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) to seek permission from him when investigating his ministers.”
By strongly defending Mr Kabimba’s corruption allegations with a decree that investigative agencies should seek permission from the presidency, Mr Sata has clearly demonstrated that the crusade against corruption and the figth for justice and goodness has never been his and patriotic front government agenda. By blasting the ACC for investigating his ministers, the president is telling Zambians that the law is like a spider’s web; the small and weak are caught into it while the big and strong can tear it apart. Mr Sata has deliberately refused to see the unconcealed corruption in Mr Kabimba and Mr Mwamba and has turned a deaf ear to calls that he should suspend the two ministers so as to deter them from frustrating the investigations. Now that Mr Sata has banned ACC from instituting investigations against his sacred cows unless permission is sought, Mr Kabimba and his other corrupt cohorts in government will take their arrogance to the highest of levels because they have the blessings and support of their leader. From this above situation, it is clear that justice and goodness is missing in our country. This is because Justice concerns what is legally right or wrong. Ideally, justice is ethical, and one assumes that doing what is ethical is legal. Justice cares about people’s rights, and righting wrongs when those rights are violated.
Additionally, it is believed that Justice delayed is justice denied. Indeed with regard to this, even the United Nations Charter on Human Rights recognises that a speedy and fair trial is an entitlement, a human right. However, others have spent more years in prison without judgement being passed or knowing their fate, albeit for different reasons.
Richard (2009) states, “under the separation of powers, each branch of government has a specific function. The legislative branch makes the laws. The executive branch implements the laws. The judiciary interprets the laws and decides legal controversies.”The Zambian constitution calls for the powers of the government to be divided among three separate branches: the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary branch. Under the separation of powers, each branch is independent, has a separate function, and may not usurp the functions of another branch. However, the branches are interrelated. They cooperate with one another and also prevent one another from attempting to assume too much power. This relationship is described as one of checks and balances, where the functions of one branch serve to contain and modify the power of another. Through this elaborate system of safeguards, the Framers of the Constitution sought to protect the nation against tyranny. However, this is not the case for Zambia. Interference of the these three organs of the government into each other is very common in Zambia more especially the interference of executive in to the legislature.
Balance or equilibrium of power can also mean the participation of citizens in governance issues. According to Lincoln, (1994), “in Zambia, the issue of democracy and good governance is also dependent on civil society as leaders at times act to respect the needs and aspirations of the citizens. Even though the current framework of laws in Zambia at both national and local government level does provide for broad-based participation in national processes, however, evidence on the ground suggests that there is limited public participation in development and policy planning, implementation and monitoring processes. Ihonvbere (1996) claims that, “Some of the identified factors that limit public engagement in national processes include poor access to information, weak civil society, and general public apathy due to limited civic education.”
The African peer review mechanism mission visited the nine provinces of Zambia and held sessions with various stakeholders including the government representatives, civil society, private sector and media representatives. Following the meetings, it was observed that in those meetings, they were not adequately representative of the various stakeholders. It was observed that the meetings were dominated by government representatives whilst the private sector and civil society representation during the meetings was very limited.
Furthermore, in 2009, the Zambian government enacted a Non-Governmental Organisation Act which to a larger extent aims to restrict the work of NGOs in the country especially the ones working in the areas of governance and human rights26. The composition of the board is heavily tilted towards interests of the government as most board members are from government institutions with the law giving the minister powers to appoint the chairperson and the vice and further powers to reject nominated members from NGOs.
Finally, weaknesses in the constitution have inhibited full participation of the National Assembly in providing oversight on important governance issues such as contracting public debt as well as medium and longer term planning.
From the above discussion, it is clear that using the definition of peace as, a state of law or civil governance, a state of justice or goodness and a balance or equilibrium of power, to analyse Zambia as a peaceful nation, Zambia fall short to be one of the peaceful nations.
Farkins, R. (2008). Governance in Africa. Pretoria: Herwah inc Heiner, N. (2011). Change of Power in Zambia. Natal: Friedrick Publishers. Ihonvbere, J. O. (1996). Economic Crisis, Civil Society and Democratization. Lancet: doi publishers.
Lincoln, D. (1994). The Role of Democracy and Good Governance. Chigago: Brookslin. NAEP (1998). The National Standards for Civics and Government and the Civics. Lusaka, Zambia.
Rawls, J. (1999). A Theory of Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Richard, B. (2009). Access to justice in Africa. New York: Cambridge University Press. Zambian Watchdog. (December 11, 2012). Lusaka, Zambia.