The Governance, Elections, Advocacy, Research Services Initiative is concerned with the emergency of electoral violence in Sesheke Parliamentary by election in Sesheke District of Western Province and Makomba Ward bye election in Lundazi District of Eastern Province respectively.
Organisation Executive Director McDonald Chipenzi says it is time that the Electoral Commission of Zambia counsels all political parties and law enforcement agencies involved in these by-elections on the provisions of the Principles for Election Management, Monitoring and Observation in the SADC Region adopted in 2003 to which ECZ was part.
Mr. Chipenzi says the principles sanctity recommend that “there can only be a free, fair, credible and legitimate electoral process in a climate that is free from political violence and intimidation”.
He said there is need to respect these principles if Zambia is to create a culture of peace and tolerance and a general agreement on what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable conduct during electoral campaigns.
In addition, Mr. Chipenzi said the role of security forces like police and their presence in huge numbers has an intimidatory effect on the voters and the citizens as it instill fear in voters and the citizens.
“Therefore, for fair, free, credible and legitimate by-election process to be realised on 12 February, 2018, there is need for police and other security forces to maintain a neutral role in the provision of election security services in these areas holding by-elections”,he said
Mr. Chipenzi said the police should follow the role prescribed to them in the electoral code of Conduct and ensure that their presence does not intimidate voters in those areas.
He has also called on the ECZ to regularly and urgently meet with the police to discuss proper election policing strategies in these areas to avoid perceptions currently building up that police are fanning violence in Sesheke while in Makomba police are being accused of being inert.
Mr. Chipenzi said the News outlets should also not hide the real truth as who are the perpetrators of violence and has further call on police to move in and corner those persons mentioned as fanners of violence in Sesheke and Makomba.
District Conflict management Committees in these areas must be proactive than reactive to avoid conflicts in their respective areas.
Failure by police to arrest or counsel those in the habit of carrying offensive weapons during campaigns as observed in Makoma will just lead to institutionalised violence in the electoral process.