Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 August 2021:
Former President of Sierra Leone – Ernest Bai Koroma, who is leading the African Union Elections Observation Mission to Zambia, on Monday held consultations with Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu, and other stakeholders, on a range of issues to promote peaceful, fair, transparent and credible elections tomorrow Thursday, 12th August.
Speaking about the work of the AU election observation mission, Ernest Bai Koroma told the Zambian leader (Photo below) that the “Mission is comprised of 34 observers who will be deployed in all ten regions of the country,” as he reiterated the AU’s solidarity with and commitment to supporting the people of Zambia in achieving peaceful and credible electoral outcomes.
Along with AU’s Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security – Bankole Adeoye, former President Koroma also held fruitful discussions with the Chairperson of the Zambian Electoral Commission, Justice Chulu and his Commissioners, as well as the Deputy Inspector General of Police.
Throughout these consultations, the AU Commissioner highlighted Zambia’s enviable history of peaceful political and democratic transitions since independence. Ambassador Bankole Adeoye also noted Zambia’s legacy of supporting other African countries during the fight against apartheid.
“Zambia has always been a beacon of hope and a shining example of peace and democratic progress on the continent and I therefore urge you to uphold this enviable record throughout this exercise,” he said.
Former President Koroma and his team will continue with his engagements with opposition parties, civil society, the media, international organizations and other stakeholders ahead of tomorrow’s polls.
In another development, former president Koroma and the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Ambassador Bankole Adeoye, yesterday held consultation meetings with various stakeholder of the Zambia 12th August elections, including the Chairperson and members of the Human Right Commission, Mudford Zachariah Mwandenga, and the leadership of the Zambian Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG) which comprises the Council of Churches in Zambia, Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, Jusuit Center for Theological Reflection and the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The AU Mission has noted growing concerns from all sides about violence, particularly between the supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front of President Edgar Lungu, and the main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND), of Hakainda Hichilema.
Issues about the absence of a level playing field, police high handedness, unfair enforcement of the Public Order Act and Covid – 19 restrictions have also been raised.
The incumbent is particularly concerned about the opposition ‘playing the victim card’ and what he described as “the refusal of a certain political party not only to accept elections results but also to acknowledge the legitimacy of his presidency.
What has come out clearly is that there is a high level of mistrust between the main contenders. Mr. Hakainda Hichilema is contesting for the 6th time, losing in the last two by less than two percentage points. Reports say, the UDNP leader has indicated that this might be his final attempt at becoming president of Zambia – a statement which appears to have inspired doggedness on the part of his supporters. On the other hand, incumbent President Lungu is running for a second full term, and like his opponent, he’s determined for victory.
In an election which is being so fiercely contested, the stakes for peace and stability could not be higher.
“The AU remains determined to walk this difficult path with the people of Zambia all the way to an outcome everyone should be proud of,” said former president Koroma.
He also stated that “the judiciary, the electoral commission and the security sector have a huge responsibility in maintaining the neutrality expected of them.”
“The peace and stability of Zambia is more important than the political aspiration of any individual or group of individuals,” Koroma warned Zambians.