By Mweelwa Muleya
As the Zambia observes the Day of National Prayer which falls on 18th October of every year in Zambia, the Human Rights Commission (HRC/Commission) calls for practical steps towards de-escalating national tension and political violence in order to create a conducive environment for the promotion and protection of human rights and freedoms for all.
The current political environment is toxic with hatred and acts of discrimination, thereby grossly undermining national unity, peace and stability. The continued escalating political tension and violence is extremely worrying and the Government must provide effective leadership towards restoring law and order and respecting human rights and freedoms without any form of discrimination.
It is clear that discriminatory application of laws relating to freedoms of movement, assembly and expression based on one’s political affiliation or divergent views are the root causes of political tension and violation of human rights. The State has an inescapable mandate and obligation to maintain law and order and to respect and protect the rights of all citizens without any form of discrimination.
Regrettably, the country continues to witness individuals engaging in acts of lawlessness and hate speech targeting opposition party leaders left scot-free while the victims of such politically sponsored verbal and physical violence are the ones being pursued by the Zambia Police Service. Such discriminatory application of the law is causing political tension, violence and is grossly undermining national unity, peace and prosperity.
Therefore, the Commission calls on the Government to be magnanimous enough and deal with acts of lawlessness by its supporters in the same manner it is dealing with acts of lawlessness or violence allegedly committed by individuals and groups of individuals holding and/or expressing divergent views.
It is only a human rights-based approach of respecting and protecting the rights and freedoms of everyone without any form of discrimination based on one’s political affiliation, ethnicity, tribe or place of origin or indeed on any other basis that is going to bring about sustainable national unity, peace and prosperity.
The Commission wishes to call upon all public and political players not to sacrifice national unity and peace at the altar of political expedience during the countdown to 2021 Presidential and general elections and beyond.
As the nation prays today, the Commission wishes to take the opportunity to remind everyone about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood [and sisterhood].
Therefore, the State must take leadership towards ensuring that there is total adherence to the human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination in the application of laws to stop the continued violation of fundamental birth rights of individuals.
The Author is Spokesperson for HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION