Zambians await elections results amid violence as former president Koroma pacifies political parties

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 August 2021:

Yesterday’s elections in Zambia went on relatively smoothly and peacefully, with a few disruptive incidents, one of which resulted in the death of a regional chairman of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party. As expected, the polls were a two-horse race between the incumbent Patriotic Front party of President Edgar Lungu, and the main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) of Haikainda Hichileme.

“Like our observers deployed across the ten provinces, I was out and about Lusaka and observed the opening of the polls, the voting process and the closing. Party Agents of particularly the two major contenders, were present in the polling stations and participated in all the procedures of voters verification, ballot sorting, counting, recording, authenticating of results at the polling stations, as well as in sealing of the ballot boxes,” said President Koroma.

The AU Chief Elections Observer also noted that: “Generally, we observed polls opening mostly on time, the process was transparent, orderly and largely peaceful.”

And he had some good words for the Zambia people and those involved with the electoral process.

“The people of Zambia and all the stakeholders involved in organising these elections to this point should be proud of themselves for a job well done.”

As Zambians wait in bated breath the outcome of these elections, the experienced and charismatic head of the AUEOM to Zambia, president Ernest Bai Koroma, has, in pursuit of AU’s charters on peace, democracy and credible elections, shifted into ‘preventive diplomacy’ through background engagements with the two protagonists.

And the reason is obvious. Incumbent president Lungu and UPND candidate Hichilema, have a very frosty relationship which has translated into open antagonism between their supporters. Lungu complained that Hichilema does not recognise his presidency. At the same time, the UPND leader says president Lungu has ruined the economy, ruled with an iron fist and, through police violence, intimidation and incarceration, constricted the democratic space in Zambia.

Some disturbances were reported yesterday morning in certain parts of the country, with concerns of the intermittent shut down of the internet, raising fears of post-election unrest in the country.

The head of the AUEOM, former President Ernest Bai Koroma, has therefore reiterated its appeal to all concerned to continue to keep the peace.

“By all means, this exercise should be concluded to the satisfaction, pride and to this great nation’s credentials as a beacon of peace, stability and democratic progress,” he stated.

President Koroma also urged that: “when and where there are disagreements, the official/legitimate dispute resolution mechanisms should be utilised”.

Yesterday, President Koroma was locked in a one-on-one meeting with the incumbent president Edgar Lungu, and later met with the head of the Electoral Commission of Zambia and UPND leader, Mr Hichilema.

Today, situation in Zambia is very fluid with the acceptability of the 12 August elections outcome hanging in a balance. The uncertainty of the situation has heightened the anxieties about Zambia’s peace and security. The elections have been fiercely contested by the incumbent, president Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front (PF) party, and the leader of the main opposition United Party for National Development, UPND, businessman Haikainda Hichilema.

The two protagonists have  reportedly had a long running feud and with concerns that the ills of regional/ethnic politics may be playing a big role in these elections, there are real and justifiable fears that Zambia may be on a slippery slope to post elections violence.

While some analysts believe that the earlier the final results are announced the better for post elections reconciliation, there is also an apparent consensus within some circles that it is critical that the outcome is credible and acceptable to both parties. That burden is resting squarely on the broad shoulders of the chairperson of the Elections Commission of Zambia, (ECZ), Rtd Justice Esau E. Chulu.

Earlier, the ECZ had assured the nation that they would announce the final results within 72 hours, a position which they reaffirmed today. Also, the ECZ has since yesterday been providing regular and live updates on the elections process and today they have started announcing provisional results which are trickling in from the field. But in a very unusual turn, an official of the main opposition UPND, during an ECZ press conference this evening, objected to the announcement of provisional results from three key regions.

“We object to the announcement of these results because we believe that they are not consistent with what our polling agents in those regions had sent to us,” the UPND official said at the press conference being aired live on the Zambian National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC). Even more curious, another UPND representative lamented that: “we came to the Commission to ‘verify’ these results and we were asked to wait in one of the rooms upstairs. Therefore, we are very surprised and displeased that suddenly, officials of the ECZ who had asked us to wait have now emerged at the conference hall to announce those same results we are here to verify”. The ECZ had to abort the proceedings and retire along the the UPND representatives to, as they put it, “resolve the misunderstanding”.

At the same time, a few other opposition parties, particularly the Socialist Party of Fred M’membe, have reportedly congratulated the UPND leader, Mr. Hichilema, thereby making an already tricky situation more precarious.

To pacify this fast deteriorating political quagmire, the head of the African Union Elections Observation Mission (AUEOM) to Zambia, president Ernest Bai Koroma, has strategically shifted from elections observation to what the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace & Security, Ambassador Bankole Adeoye, describes as ‘preventive diplomacy’.

To this effect, over the last twenty hours, President Koroma has launched into   closed door One – On – One discussions with the two protagonists, the leadership of ECZ and a wide array of key institutions organisations involved with Zambia’s electoral process. President Koroma would not disclose the details from the closed-door discussions but he sounds optimistic that Zambia will once again come through this as a strong, peaceful, stable and democratic country.

“What is important is that both leaders love their country deeply and they are both aware that if they do not manage the situation well, there could be dire consequences for the peace and stability of the country they aspire to govern,” he said.

President Koroma also has some advise to those who may want to take things into their hands. “Violence would only result in hurting each other, in destroying your hard – earned reputation, in the disruption of your kids schooling, your businesses/ livelihoods, and in worsening the economy already constrained by effects of COVID -19”.

Urging Zambians to remain calm and law abiding, President Koroma assured that the AU will continue to do everything to support the people of Zambia through this anxious moment

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Oh my God, every country around the world, the losing candidate never say – anyway I was defeated by my opponent. The truth will never come from their mouths at all. Thanks to the Zambians, they have made their choice and I believe that, Mr. Lungu will accept the result once and for all.

    My understanding is, the chairman for life hasnt reveal his selection yet, – who he has chosen as the APC next flagbearer, hmmm, trouble. I wish that APC rearrange themselves to select the best candidate, but you get to understand that, H.E. Bio is a strong man. Thanks

  2. As Zambians await the out come of this presidential election, the one result that is at the forefront of the mind of every Zambian is the recriminations, and blame game , and loosing candidates not accepting results,going to court to challenge the elections results was never in any doubt . Maybe this time it will work. The priest of election civilizations is in towm in the form of our fomer president Bia Koroma. Now he is trying to preach to the unconverted of Zambian political classes to respect elections outcomes. Which by the way have already started in earnest. That is even before the Zambian electoral commission are in the process of tallying the elections results. So when I say we should be proud of our country,and sing it praise, especially about the way we conduct our elections, some time not pretty as we will hope for, but nonetheless the losing candidate be it SLPP, or APC candidates graciously accept the the verdicts of Sierra Leoneans voters, and live to fight an other day.

    Now this is the very unique concept that has taken root in our country, that the new reincarnation power hungry Bio, is trying to undermined, and destroy. Yes people will point out, he respected the first out comes when he lost to then president Bai Koroma.That is why we should be alert to his use of the PAOPA language. Thats for Zambian politics not Sierra Leone. Ours should be rule by concent. The Bio of 2007 and the Bio of 2021 are two people in the same body. If you have died in 2007 and wake up today, you won’t recognise Bio. Every thing this president does have changed. Power have corrupted his head.We don’t want him to import Zambian politics in our country or majority of other African countries that goes to collective hysteria about choosing their leaders. President Lungu is sounding more like a sore loser.

    President Lungu the incumbent President of the Patriotic Front party, and his challenger, businessman turned politician’s Mr. Hakienda Hichilema, of the rival United party for national development or “HH” as he is known by his diehard supporters, has started trading blows. The killing of a senior party officials of the president’s Patriotic Front party in the North West region, and a supporter in the south west region of the country, where “HH” has his base, have given President Lungu the ammunition to claim his supporters were denied the opportunity to cast their ballots. He even went on to say they were chased away from the polling Stations by oppositions supporters. Therefore the election in that part of the was not free and fair. On the other hand Mr Hichilema, claimed he have won the election, and this is a president that is desperate to hang on to power. Fromer president Bia Koroma, the point man for the African union Elections monitoring obverser team have to walk on egg shells here, least he offend the egocentric, and political polarisation Zambians are now getting used to every election cycle.

  3. Worrying stuff! Is there an emergency plan in place to evacuate our most loved former President, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, and his team if things get out of Hands? He needs to get back home as quickly as he possibly can if things go wrong. God bless, guide, protect the Zambians, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma and his team. Amen and Amen. Father God.

  4. It is to be hoped that the incumbent and his chief political rival in Zambia and their respective parties and supporters will in the end accept the results of the election and spare the country they both claim to love the post-electoral mayhem and fratricidal bloodbath looming over it. So far, President Koroma seems to be doing a sterling job, which is a credit to both himself and our country.

    If he he succeeds in what appears to be proactive, hands-on diplomacy aimed at pacifying Zambia’s sworn political enemies, his profile and reputation as an influential African statesman, electoral observer and peace-broker and doyen and advocate of the principle and practice of democratic governance in our continent, will ratchet up a notch and be made visibly obvious to all.

    It is to be hoped further that on returning home, our seasoned chief electoral observer and peace-maker will bring to bear on the internal politics and operations of the party he currently leads the great lessons in democracy, political dissent and tolerance he will have taught Zambians.

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