/** headlines: 125.0 **/
** Topic: Zambia: HRW Report on Elections **
** Written 8:36 AM Dec 9, 1996 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 10:40 AM Dec 8, 1996 by firstname.lastname@example.org in africa.news */
/* ---------- "Zambia: HRW Report on Elections" ---------- */
(27 Nov 96)--In "Zambia: Elections and Human Rights in the Third Republic," released today, Human Rights Watch/Africa charges that numerous human rights violations before the November 18 vote seriously undermined the legitimacy of the elections themselves and set a negative tone for the country's development over the next several years. In these parliamentary and presidential elections, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) won a majority and President Frederick Chiluba was returned for a second term. The vote marked the second multiparty election since 1991, when twenty-seven years of authoritarian rule under Kenneth Kaunda was ended.
Zambia had been heralded as a model for democracy in Africa after the peaceful transfer of power in 1991. The report details that although Zambia initially made overall progress toward respect for civil and political rights, with some liberalizing reforms, by 1993 the progress appeared to have stopped and the Chiluba government increasingly resorted to methods used under Kaunda rule to suppress criticism.
"The result is that Zambian citizens are plagued by restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, intimidation of those in the legal system and harassment of opposition parties," said Peter Takirambudde, Executive Director for Human Rights Watch/Africa and one of the authors of the report. "Some of these abuses are the legacy of the Kaunda years, but in many cases human rights violations are the results of new initiatives by the Chiluba government. We are particularly concerned at increasing government efforts to undermine the NGOs and the judiciary. They are essential foundations of any democracy."
In calling on The World Bank's Consultative Group for Zambia, the U.S. government and Southern African Development Community countries to continue to pressure the Zambian government to improve its record on human rights, Takirambudde stated, "The international response to the Zambia crisis has been impressive to date. Unity in pressing the government for improved human rights reforms is essential and general support for civic associations and in particular groups that lobby and campaign for human rights standards is needed."
The fifty-three-page report details how state intimidation of the opposition increased significantly in 1995 when former president Kaunda announced a formal return to politics. The runup to the November 18 elections saw a number of abuses. There is evidence that duplicate National Registration Cards were been issued to some voters, that the names of others have been omitted from voters rolls and that duplicate National Registration Cards appeared on the rolls. The ruling MMD also deliberately blurred the distinction between party and state. In Lusaka's Soweto Market the MMD conducted a voter registration exercise, with MMD supporters pressuring voters to confirm their affiliation to the MMD. Human Rights Watch/Africa also obtained documentation proving a government plan to augment the police with MMD supporters prior to the elections. Government officials also threatened to deny state services and programs to constituencies that did not vote for the ruling MMD.
The main opposition party, the United National Independence Party (UNIP) also engaged in electoral abuses in by-elections. UNIP sympathizers assaulted MMD supporters and villagers they suspected of backing the MMD. Such inter-political clashes in the by-elections restricted freedom of movement among villagers in several constituencies.
The government forced a radical amendment to the 1991 constitution through the MMD-dominated parliament in May 1996. Particularly controversial was a provision that imposed new requirements on persons seeking to become president. These included that a candidate be a Zambian citizen born of parents who are Zambian by birth or descent and that the candidate not be a tribal chief. These requirements appeared to be tailored to disqualify specific opposition leaders from running for president, including former president Kenneth Kaunda - who is partially of Malawian heritage - and UNIP's vice presidential candidate - a tribal chief. These restrictions violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Zambia is a party.
In June and July 1996, a shadowy group called the "Black Mamba" was blamed by the government for a spate of bomb blasts in Zambia that killed one person. Eight UNIP officials including its vice president were arrested in connection with the bombings and were committed to the Lusaka High Court charged with treason and murder. The trial provided little evidence to suggest that these UNIP members were involved in any violent conspiracy against the state. It appeared they were detained solely because of their political affiliation. They were acquitted of treason and murder charges by the High Court in November.
The independent press was also the target of government intimidation. "The Post" newspaper has been under particular attack. In February 1996 police arrested three of its editors and banned edition 401 before its distribution because it reported that the government was secretly planning to hold a referendum on the constitution without giving the public time to prepare. The day's on-line edition was also banned, making it the first act of censorship on the Internet in Africa.
Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on the Zambian government to:
To All Political Parties:
Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on all Zambian political parties to publicly advocate protection and respect for human rights in their platform and promise to hold party members who commit human rights abuses accountable.
To the International Community:
Human Rights Watch/Africa recommends that the international community:
Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on The World Bank's Consultative Group for Zambia ("Paris Club") to:
Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on the United States to:
Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on The Commonwealth Secretariat to send a fact-finding mission to Zambia to investigate human rights practices across the country.
Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on The African Commission for Human and Peoples' Rights to send a mission to investigate Zambia's current human rights situation.
For additional copies of "Zambia: Elections and Human Rights in the Third Republic," please send $6.00 (domestic) or $7.50 (international) to Publications Department, Human Rights Watch, 485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6104.
Human Rights Watch/Africa Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental organization established in 1978 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and among the signatories of the Helsinki accords. Kenneth Roth is the executive director and Robert L. Bernstein is the chair of the board. Its Africa division was established in 1988 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in sub-Saharan Africa. Peter Takirambudde is the executive director and William Carmichael is the chair of the advisory committee.
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