Friday, 26 August 2016

Copperbelt Activists Call For Criminalisation Of Child Marriages

A young mother in rural Zambia
By Paul Shalala

Stakeholders in Zambia’s Copperbelt Province have called for the criminalization of child marriages to protect school-going children from early marriages.

According to World Vision International, Zambia has one of the highest child marriage rates in the world with 42% of women aged 20-24 years married by the age of 18.

During a provincial experts meeting in Kitwe on Monday, Kitwe District Commissioner Chanda Kabwe called for the country to come up with stringent laws which would punish parents who marry off their school-going children.

Mr Chanda said it was sad that children were being married off at an early age and most of them were dropping out of school and becoming parents.

“Some parents, when they see their girl children, they see wealth. We need to start arresting and jailing such irresponsible people so that the girl child can finish school and seize all the opportunities the world has in store for them,” said Mr Kabwe who heads local government departments in the mining town of Kitwe.

He regretted that Zambia has few women in positions of decision making and child marriages were making the situation even worse as girls who were intelligent in school are having their education cut short by early marriages.

And Chileshe Soteli, the Chiefs Affairs Officer in Lufwanyama District called for the punishment of under age children who abandon school and insist on marrying.

Ms Soteli, who narrated how she has over the years dealt with numerous cases of juveniles who opt for early marriage, said there was need for the minors to be punished as a deterrent to would be child brides and child grooms.
Chanda Kabwe

“I come from a rural district where child marriages are common. We plead with these children to stick to school but they insist on marrying. I think we need a law which will prescribe a form of punishment for such children because the situation is getting out of hand,” said Ms Soteli.

And gender activist Sharon Chisanga says most school going children are forced into early marriage because of their parents’ failure to raise money to sustain their lives.

Ms Chisanga, who is also Provincial Coordinator for the Young Women Christian Association, told the meeting that there was need for society to curb this vice because it is depriving  the nation of potential female leaders.

“Parents are also to blame for this problem. When young girls sleep in cabins, they feel uncomfortable and they hope to get married and sleep in better homes,” she said.

Cabins are small houses which were built as temporal houses for single miners on the Copperbelt but over the decades, they have been transformed into family houses despite their small size.

The provincial stakeholders meeting on early marriages was organised by the Law Development Commission to find suggestions from stakeholders on whether to criminalise early marriages due to the escalating cases across the country.

The commission decided to start its countrywide tour and collection of views in the Copperbelt Province because according to the Central Statistical Office, the copper-rich region has the second highest cases of child marriages among the 10 provinces of Zambia.

“Zambia has two sources of law for marriage. Under statutory law, a person can marry at 21 years and we have no problem with that. But under customary law, a person can be married at any age as long as they reach puberty. This is where we have a problem and early marriages are increasing under customary law,” said Gilbert Mwanza, a lawyer and research officer at the Law Development Commission.

Mr Mwanza, who is leading the countrywide collection of the views, is among officer who are expected to draft a bill to criminalise child marriages and harmonise the marriage age.

The Law Development Commission is a statutory body under Zambia’s Ministry of Justice.


The commission is mandate is to continuously research on laws and propose bills to parliament.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Kampamba Mulenga: Copperbelt's Only Female Member of Parliament

By Paul Shalala in Kalulushi

She is the only female Member of Parliament among the 22 lawmakers on the Copperbelt.

Newly elected Patriotic Front Kalulushi Member of Parliament Kampamba Mulenga has fought her way to Manda Hill.

She was among several female parliamentary candidates on the Copperbelt who were adopted by various political parties to contest the August 11 parliamentary elections.

However, all her friends lost and she pulled through alone.

Her victory is good news for gender activists but the fact that she is the only female MP in the second largest province in terms of registered voters, is a source of worry to people who follow women politics closely.

Between 2011 and 2016, the Copperbelt had four elected female Members of Parliament in Kabushi (Ndola), Chifubu (Ndola) Chililabombwe and Lufwanyama.

Back to Kampamba, her election has proved that being consistent in politics can also take one to the national stage.

At a personal level, she is a mother of three who still does household chores like any other mother.

When this blogger met her for an interview, the Kalulushi MP was busy in the kitchen preparing food for her family.

Her rise to national prominence is out of hardwork.

"I was first elected party District Treasurer. Later i was elected the first District Chairperson for the Patriotic Front in 2011. At that time, it was difficult to win such a position as a woman and we were still in opposition," said Kampamba.

She says her hard work in the party led to late President Michael Sata recognising her and making her part of his government.

"President Sata later appointed me District Commissioner for Kalulushi."

It is this civil service position which helped position Kampamba well with the people of Kalulushi, a town which has one constituency.

In that role, Kampamba was one of the few female District Commissioners on the Copperbelt.

And even after leaving the office a few years ago, she went back to politics and stealthily prepared for the adoptions ahead of the 2016 parliamentary elections.

As usual, she was pitted against men within the ruling party but she prevailed.

During the actual elections, she beat all the five men who stood against her.

Now that she has been elected, she has a few words for women on the Copperbelt.
Rashida (left) and Kampamba celebrating their victory

"I will work hard and inspire more women to stand as MPs in 2021. We need more women to take up leadership positions. And for the people of Kalulushi, i want to assure them that i will not disapoint them, i will work towards my campaign promises and develop our constituency," she said.

As she embarks on her five year tour of duty at Manda Hill, the hopes of people in Kalulushi is that she will carry on the mantle and deliver where men could have failed to deliver.

Kampamba is not the only woman elected in Kalulushi.

A number of coucillors are female and the new Mayor of Kalulushi Rashida Mulenga is also female.

Despite sharing the same surname, Rashida and Kampamba are not related.

Their own relation is the quest to develop Kalulushi.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Zambia’s Referendum Fails As Less Than 50% Of Voters Show Up

By Paul Shalala
A voter

Zambia has failed to pass several progressive human rights amendments to its constitution following the failure by voters to reach the 50% threshold needed to approve the amendments in a referendum.

On Thursday last week, Zambia went to the polls in a general election which was also tied to a referendum on the bill of rights which had progressive laws.

Due to the attention given to the presidential election, the counting and announcing of referendum votes was halted and postponed to today to allow for the presidential results to be announced first.

According to Zambia’s Referendum Act, the country needs at least 50% of its citizens above 18 years to vote in a referendum.

Further, half of those who show up at the polling stations must vote YES for the referendum to succeed.

However, today, the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) announced that last week’s referendum failed to reach the threshold.

ECZ Chairperson Esau Chulu disclosed that only 44.4% of the eligible voters turn out and the referendum failed by 5.6%.

According to the Central Statistical Office, Zambia has an estimated total of 7,528,091 people above the age of 18 and this means that for the referendum to go through, 3,764,046 should have voted.

However, according to Justice Chulu, only 3,345,047 showed up and of those, only 1,852,549 voted YES for the referendum.

The ECZ and some civil society organisations ran sensitisation campaigns urging people to come out and vote in the referendum.

The ruling Patriotic Front campaigned for a YES vote while the opposition UPND and other parties campaigned for a NO vote.

Despite the general election recording a 56.4% turn out, the referendum recorded a 44.4%.

After voting for President, Member of Parliament, Mayor and Councillor, some voters did not proceed to the referendum booth to also vote in the referendum despite both processes being held in the same polling stations.
The Referendum Question On the ballot Paper

Some of the progressive laws which were provided for in the bill of rights were a provision of 19 years as the marriage age, banning of abortion, providing access to information, freedom of the media, social, economic, cultural and political rights and fair trial.

Since the announcement of the referendum results, some Copperbelt-based civil society organisations have told this blogger of their disappointment.

“We are disappointed that the referendum has failed. We had hope that if the bill of rights was passed, we were going to be granted access to information which we have been championing for years. We also hoped that the public media would be given freedom. But this now means we get back to our drawing boards and start pushing parliament to enact the access to information bill,” said Andrew Sakala, President of the Press Association of Zambia.

Since 2002, the Zambian media has been involved ina back and forth game with governments for the access to information law to be taken back to parliament for enactment.

Not much progress has been made in realising this dream as successful governments have been failing to take back the bill to the floor of the house since its withdrawal from the standing orders 14 years ago.

For those involved in governance issues, the failure of the referendum means a major setback to their countrywide advocacy activities in the past three months.

“We are very disappointed by this development. We blame opposition parties who politicised this process. They campaigned against the referendum and now the people of Zambia have been denied their social, economic and cultural rights. This should be a lesson to Zambians and they should know that some parties don’t mean well,” said Gerard Mutelo, President of the Kitwe-based Democratic Governance and Human Rights Advocates.  

For some governance activists, the failure by Zambian voters to pass the bill of rights has hurt them hard.

“We are disappointed and annoyed. We spent a lot of money in sensitising the masses. What have the opposition parties gained in this…… People are not celebrating this development…. What have they achieved?” said an angry looking Poster Jumbe, the Copperbelt Province Coordinator of the Anti-Voter Apathy Project, a youth-led organisation which champions the involvement of young people in public affairs.
Some of the advocacy material for referendum

Among other provisions, the bill of rights called suggested 19 years to be made the marriage age in light of the conflict between customary and statutory laws which recognise marriage at different ages.

“It is very disappointing that the bill of rights has not been passed. We hoped that if it passed, it would have raised the marriage age to 19 and helped stop early marriages which are rampant in Zambia,” said Sharon Chisanga, the Copperbelt Province Coordinator for the Young Women Christian Association.

Ms Chisanga coordinates several programs aimed at discouraging early marriages which are common on the Copperbelt Province which has the second highest rate among Zambia’s 10 provinces.

If passed, the bill of rights would have also outlawed the detention of pregnant women.

Currently, pregnant women can be jailed and several women are incarcerated and raise their children in prison.

The bill had also provided for quick trials to avoid the common practice of suspects spending months and possibly years before their cases are disposed off by the courts of law.

With Zambia's conservative society, the country added a clause which defined marriage as union between two people of opposite sex.

This clause was clearly stated to avoid any chances of same sex marriages in a country which is constitutionally recognised as a christian nation even though it also respects other faiths.

Before Thursday’s referendum, the last time Zambia had such a vote was in 1969. 

Monday, 15 August 2016

President Lungu Wins Zambia's Tightly Contested Election

By Paul Shalala
President Edgar Lungu has been re-elected to a full five year term after beating his closest rival Hakainde Hichilema of the UPND by 100,530 votes.
This year’s presidential election was held under the majoritarian system which needed a winning presidential candidate to get above fifty percent of the votes.
According to Zambia's elections body, the incumbent won by 50.03% thereby avoiding a run off.
This electoral system was part of several reforms made to the electoral process following the enactment of the amended constitution in January this year.
President Lungu, who was first elected last year to complete his predecessor Michael Sata’s five year term, managed to beat off a strong challenge by Mr Hichilema who he also beat last year by 27,000 votes.
In this year’s final tally announced by Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) Chairperson Esau Chulu this afternoon, the 60 year old head of state polled 1,860,877 while the 54 year old opposition leader got 1,760,347 votes.
Mr Lungu, who sold himself as a deliverer of development and a candidate who will promote unity and prosperity, took command of the vote from the early stages of the count and ended the the four day tallying process as the victor.
The Thursday poll was contested by nine candidates, seven of whom polled meagre votes which were even lower than the total number of rejected votes countrywide.
Thousands of Zambians in towns across the country have comes out on the streets to celebrate the victory.
Dressed in their green and white party regalia, the PF supporters walked to their respective towns' central business districts and danced to party songs.
Those riding in vehicles honked throughout as they played loud music through public address systems mounted on top of their vehicles.
In Lusaka, hundreds of supporters marched to State House where President Lungu addressed them.
The President-elect told them that he was surprised at what he termed as tribal voting in some parts of the country.
He added that ruling party members should forget about the differences they have with their opposition colleagues and work to unite the nation.
Meanwhile, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Anan has congratulated Zambians on the conduct of the just ended elections.
“I congratulate the citizens of Zambia for their impressive voter turnout on 11 August and for the peaceful and orderly election day, made possible by the diligent work of the election officials, party agents and monitors. In this tense and competitive climate it is essential that the security forces respect the constitution and remain impartial and professional in the discharge of their duties," said Mr Anan in a statement.
President Lungu addressing his supporters at State House
And in a joint press briefing held on Friday to issue their interim statements, international election observers described Thursday’s general elections as free and fair despite some cases of political violence recorded during the campaigns.
Some of the international observers who monitored the polls where SADC, African Union, the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, the Commonwealth, the Carter Center and the European Union.
Yesterday, the opposition UPND briefly withdrew from the National Election Results Center in Lusaka and stopped verifying the election results citing lack of cooperation from the ECZ.

UPND lawyer and Monze Central MP-elect Jack Mwiimbu told the media that the party had presented several complaints to the elections body but none of them had been acted on.
But the party later rescinded its decision and attended the verification of the remaining results until today.
And in an interview with Muvi Television, Mr Hichilema has disclosed that the opposition party will challenge the election results in the recently operationalised Constitution Court.

PRESIDENT LUNGU'S PROFILE
Below is a profile of President Lungu written by Kasuba Mulenga and published by the Zambia Daily Mail on 29 January 2015:
His humble beginnings from House No. 4001 in Kitwe’s Chimwemwe township are perhaps what have shaped his belief that humility with firmness and decisiveness can take anyone anywhere. 

A stint as a trained military officer at what was then called Miltez in Kabwe has conceivably further molded his unpretentiousness up to the time of entering the political arena.

And it is possibly the rare mix of law and military discipline that nippily set the man in Edgar Chagwa Lungu on a political path that has now seen him elected Zambia’s sixth President in a poll contested by 10 other politicians.

According to ‘Meet Edgar C. Lungu’, a publication by Inzy Media, those who knew him in his university days as a tall easy going bloke say he was always out for action and innovation, including thinking outside the box.

This probably explains why the lawyer in Mr Lungu, while at Miltez, underwent grueling physical and mental training with such personalities as Zambia’s Deputy Ambassador to the United States Joe Chilaizya and other distinguished military officers who are now generals in the Zambia Army.

WHO IS EDGAR CHAGWA LUNGU?
An officer, lawyer, gentleman and politician who was born on November 11, 1956 at Ndola Central Hospital on the Copperbelt, he is married to Esther with whom he has six children.
President Lungu at his inauguration in January 2015

Mr Lungu did his high school at Mukuba Secondary School before enrolling at the University of Zambia where he studied law and graduated as one of the best law students on October 17, 1981.

He went to the Zambia Institute of Advanced Legal Education (ZIALE) and in 1983 bagged his legal practicing certificate at the first crack.

It is worthwhile to state that Mr Lungu only completed his ZIALE course in 1983 because he had some work stints as a lawyer at the Ministry of Justice, Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM) and Barclays Bank Zambia Limited, among others, before he eventually obtained a law practicing certificate.

Many lawyers have to sit for a law practice certificate examination a dozen times before they get the certificate because it is not a walk-over assessment.

Mr Lungu is an accomplished lawyer who worked for Andre Masiye and Company in Lusaka before he felt that the court room was not big enough to change people’s lives.

He briefly joined the United Party for National Development  and later bid farewell and went to the then little known PF. In 2001, he stood as Chawama member of Parliament but lost. 

He remained in the PF Central Committee and in 2011, contested the Chawama seat and won, this time around.

It is Mr Lungu whom late President Michael Sata in some recorded ‘Let the People Talk’ dialogues on Radio Phoenix was often quoted as saying, “thank you to one of my lawyers, Edgar Lungu, and all well-wishers…”

And maybe there is a natural dynamic that often links lawyers to politics that gelled Mr Lungu to the current career path just as studies in other parts of the world show regarding the relationship between lawyers and politicians.

Studies show that in many democracies like Zambia, it is often lawyers who inundate the political platform. 

This is largely due to the fact that the law deals with the same sort of interrogations and predicaments as politics constantly does.

Lawyers like Mr Lungu often have to deal with what makes a ‘just society’; the balance between liberty and security.

Another study linking lawyers like President Lungu to power says legal practitioners make natural leaders because of their “obsession process and a tendency to see things hugely in none partisan terms- ‘us or them’ and ‘guilty or not guilty’- but nonetheless always in the spirit of loyalty to a cause that is rare in other professions.

It is perhaps the lawyer in Mr Lungu that saw him stop a sizzling soccer political ordeal when the Football Association of Zambia chided the TP Mazembe trio of Rainford Kalaba, Nathan Sinkala and Stopila Sunzu last year an immigration row that seemingly went out of hand.

The players’ passports had apparently been withheld by the Immigration Department because they had left the country without immigration clearance.

But as Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Lungu ordered the release of the players’ travel documents.

“Just a couple of months ago, these boys united the country and put Zambia on the world map as a great footballing nation. Yet today, someone wants to treat them like criminals…I don’t think it’s right. Give them back their passports, these boys are heroes,” Mr Lungu directed.

As a man with a heart for the helpless, Mr Lungu assisted 30 families of the April 1993 Gabon air disaster victims to recover K16 million (then K16 billion) as compensation from government for the loss of their loved ones.
President Lungu inspecting a guard of honour

The case dragged in court for about 11 years until Mr Lungu and fellow lawyer Sakwiba Sikota used their own resources to represent the bereaved families so that they could be compensated.

One-time profiler of President Lungu, Mr Anthony Mukwita, the former Zambia Daily Mail managing director, described the Head of State as “a man of deep rooted intellect, justice and above all sense of loyalty to friends and family.”

He said Zambians backed the right candidate in the January 20 presidential election.

THE RISE OF MR LUNGU
It is common knowledge that Mr Lungu started off at the back of the line in September 2011 after President Sata made history by unseating a serving government.

Within a year under what some analysts have called the fastest rise in office, Mr Sata appointed Mr Lungu as minister of Home Affairs, at a seemingly crucial time when the PF was experiencing intra-party spats.

In less than a year, President Sata again made Mr Lungu minister of Defence, in charge of the armed forces, protecting the territorial sovereignty of the country.

Despite these tasks, Mr Lungu continued his daily routine of going home from the office and later retreating to his constituency, Chawama, where he did everything ranging from settling marital disputes to personal differences among constituents when he was not spearheading construction of road projects, health posts or police post.

One day, a few days before Christmas, a journalist called Mr Lungu and asked him to describe the year 2013 politically.

“A day in a politician’s life is too long…I cannot completely sum up 2013 today before the year ends because we don’t just know, as politicians, what happens the next day.”

When making this statement, Mr Lungu had no slightest idea that he would be minister of defence the following day.

“It is a remarkable honour for me. I feel humbled by the magnitude of the responsibility bestowed upon me to serve the people of Zambia…I am equal to the task,” he said in accepting President Sata’s appointment.

In what seemed the quest to test his leadership potentials, President Sata asked Mr Lungu to stand in for him while he would be away in China to meet that country’s new leader Xi Jinping, a feat that was made repeatedly in a clear show of confidence in Mr Lungu.

Later, Mr Lungu was given additional responsibilities when he became minister of Justice and PF secretary general on top of his defence ministerial position.

Perhaps, it was this weighty load of tasks piled on him which made the general PF membership, and particularly Members of the Central Committee, to believe he could be heir to President Sata when news of the demise of Mr Sata in a London hospital reached government on October 28, 2014.

As is normally the case in political circles, just like in homes, intra PF tiffs took centre stage in the run-up-to the election of the ruling party leader, and eventually candidate in the January 20 presidential poll.

But at the end of the day, the die was cast, and Mr Lungu contested the race for presidency of the country in which he emerged victor.
Late President Sata greets his would-be successor

“Fifty-eight years ago, I was born Edgar Chagwa Lungu at Ndola Central Hospital and grew up in Kitwe’s Chimwemwe township.

“As I stand before you today, as the sixth President of the Great Republic of Zambia, I am overwhelmed with gratitude, and I feel greatly humbled that you have decided to make me your servant – you are my masters, I am your servant,” Mr Lungu said in his inaugural speech amid deafening ovations by the people at the momentous ceremony held at National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka last Sunday.

In an apparent show of commitment to delivering service to the people, Mr Lungu has already started working, and has so far appointed some members of his Cabinet and State House staff.

Perhaps what is most intriguing about the happenings since he assumed office is the selection of former minister of Gender and Child Development Inonge Wina as the first ever Zambia’s female Vice-President.

This action has earned President Lungu continued approbations from the breadth and length of the country. 

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Campaigns End In Zambia Ahead Of Tomorrow's General Elections

The Nine Presidential candidates -Picture by Mwebantu
By Paul Shalala

Campaigns have come to an end in Zambia and voters are tomorrow expected to vote for their President, Members of Parliament, Mayors, Council Chairmen and Councillors.

Also on the ballot is the referendum which seeks to approve or disapprove the amendment to the Bill of Rights.

Tomorrow, a total of 6, 698, 372 voters are expected to vote at thousands of polling stations across the country's 10 provinces.

Voting commences at polling stations starting in the morning at 06:00hrs and close at 18:00hrs in the evening after which counting commences.

About a dozen local and foreign election missions and organisations have deployed thousands of their monitors across the country.

Since the campaign period opened on May 16 this year, various political parties and candidates have traversed the country to canvass for votes.

Eight candidates are challenging President Edgar Lungu who is seeking a full five year term of his own after serving 19 months of the remainder of his predecessor Michael Sata who died in October 2014.

According to the Electoral Commission of Zambia, 651 candidates are battling for the 156 seats in Parliament, 331 candidates are contesting as Mayors and Council Chairpersons while those who are aspiring as Councillors countrywide are 4566.

On the eve of the elections, various stakeholders have issued statements to call for peace during the elections.

Others have reflected on the past three months that have seen a hive of activities across the country.

The Southern African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD), a governance civil society organization, has called for a peaceful poll.

“The high levels of intolerance and political violence demonstrated during the campaign period which ends today indicates a high level of disregard for the citizenry and the ideals of democracy. Zambians now have an opportunity to peacefully work in solidarity and show perpetrators of political violence and intolerance that they will not to be intimidated to exercise their right to vote. We are therefore urging the citizens of this country to go and peacefully cast their votes in large numbers tomorrow 11th August, 2016,” said SACCORD Executive Director Boniface Cheembe in his election eve statement.

The Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP), another governance organization, has called on the ECZ to handle the elections in a transparent manner.

“We further wish to appeal to the ECZ to ensure timeliness and utmost transparency in the opening of polling stations and handling of voting materials to avoid acts of violence. This is an extremely important election being watched by the international community and it is imperative that electoral officials are professional in their work to inspire public confidence in the electoral process and ensure acceptance of the results,” says FODEP Executive Director Chimfwembe Mwenge in a statement issued today.

For the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB), their concern is the use of youths as tools of violence during elections.

In their pre-election statement released today, the Bishops have challenged youths to be architects of a better Zambia.

“..........we hereby challenge the youths to be architects of a better Zambia by being agents of peace and reconciliation. We therefore appeal to you to “refuse to be used as mere tools of violence by unscrupulous politicians. In conclusion we again extend our earnest appeal to all Zambians to realise that voting is one of their fundamental rights and duties. It is also a Christian duty. We thus pray that all citizens enter the August 11 general elections with a spirit of honesty, avoiding bribes and cheating. We also pray that all voters, political party leaders and their cadres may have at heart, the needed passion and commitment to build for peace and avoid all forms of violence,” reads parts of the statement issued by ZCCB President Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu.

ECZ Chairperson Esau Chulu has today announced that the commission is expected to announce the final results within 48 hours of the close of polling tomorrow. 

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Zambia Unveils Its 2016 Election Results Center

Entrance to the Election Results Center -Picture by Mwebantu
By Paul Shalala

With two days before Zambians vote in a general election and a referendum, the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has unveiled the Election Results Center which will be based at the Mulungushi International Conference Center in Lusaka.

The center, which is heavily guarded due to the usual tension that characterises polls, is accessible to all participating political parties, the media and election observers.

After the close of polling on Thursday evening, focus will shift from the polling stations to the Election Results Center where ECZ Chairperson Esau Chulu will be announcing periodic results as they trickle in from the 156 constituencies.

Justice Chulu is expected to be announcing results for the presidential and referendum.
This is because results for the Members of Parliament, Mayor, Council Chairmen and Councillors will be announced in the respective constituencies and districts.

Meanwhile, President Lungu has today met some of the international observers who are in the country to monitor the polls.

According to a statement issued by Presidential Press Aide Amos Chanda, President Lungu met former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan who is leading the African Union Observer Mission, former Mauritian President Cassam Uteem who is leading the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa and former Italian Minister of Integration Cecile Kyenge who is leading the European Union Observer Mission.

Mr Chanda has stated that the three, together with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s Special Envoy on Political Dialogue Ibrahim Gambari met the head of state at State House this morning.

“His Excellency Goodluck Jonathan expressed full confidence that the elections which will be held this Thursday on 11th August, 2016 will be free and fair and that Zambia will maintain its highly reputable brand as a viable democracy. Mr. Jonathan urged all political parties taking part in the elections to accept the outcome,” said Mr Chanda.
An aerial view of the Election Results Center

“The Head of State also held an open and frank conversation with EU observers led by Hon. Kyenge. The President assured EU observers that the opposition were free to campaign anywhere they wanted, and that access to the media was a matter for independent media boards and editorial teams.”

Meanwhile, the Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) has urged Zambians to turn out enmass and vote for their preferred candidates on Thursday.  

In its pre-election statement, FODEP has urged all stakeholders to accept the results of the election and embrace peace after the results are announced.

The local organisation has deployed 5,090 monitors in 98 of the 156 constituencies to monitor the Thursday polls.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Former Mauritius President To Lead EISA Monitors To Zambia

Former Mauritius President Cassam Uteem
By Paul Shalala in Johannesburg, South Africa

Former Mauritius President Cassam Uteem is again leading a team of election observers from the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) to Zambia for next week's general elections and referendum.

Mr Uteem, who led the island nation of Mauritius from 1992 to 2002, also led the EISA election observers to Zambia's January 2015 elections which ushered into office President Edgar Lungu following the death of his predecessor Michael Sata in October 2014.

In a statement, EISA Deputy Chief of Mission Denis Kadima says the team is in Zambia to conduct an independent assessment of the electoral process and contribute to its peaceful and transparent conduct through their findings and recommendations.

“The Mission will base its assessment on the standards and obligations stipulated in the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance; the Principles for Election Management, Monitoring and Observation; and the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, ” read part of the statement.

The 13 man team will be deployed in Lusaka, Ndola, Livingstone and Mongu.

The team includes 10 short term observers from election management bodies and civil society organisations from across the continent.

EISA is not new to Zambia.

It has monitored elections since 2000.

According to the statement, in 2000 EISA supported the Electoral Commission of Zambia to establish its conflict management panels and develop civic and voter education materials.

It also deployed observer missions to the 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2015 elections.

EISA joins other international organisations like the African Union, SADC, the Commonwealth and the European Union who have already deployed their observers on the ground.

On Thursday next week, Zambia goes to the polls to elect a President, 156 Members of Parliament, Mayors, Council Chairmen and Councillors.

Voters will also be voting in a referendum to either adopt or reject amendments to the Bill of Rights.

According to the revised voters register, Zambia has six million voters.


Nine Presidential candidates are in the race including the incumbent Edgar Lungu.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

President Obama Discusses His Presidency, Legacy And Africa

Zambian fellow Sombo Chunda shouting behind Obama
By Paul Shalala in Washington, DC

Today, he entered the Regency Ballroom at the Omni Shoreham Hotel like a rock star.

If one of the ancient writers of the Bible was present at the event, he or she would have said: “President Barack Obama made a triumphant entry into the ballroom.”

“Yes We Can! Yes We Can! Yes We Can!”

Those are the chants President Obama was welcomed with when he walked into the ballroom to address the 1,000 Mandela Washington Fellows who had just completed their six weeks training at various universities across the United States.

Just when the American President reached the podium and thought the Mandela fellows would stop the chants, they unanimously changed strategy and sang the happy birthday song to wish the first African-American President his 55th birthday.

This blogger was also carried away with the excitemen.

He even forgot to get notes when President Obama read the first few paragraphs.

Of course it was his first time to see the American President but it is typical of journalists to also be carried away, kaili mutola nkani naeve ni muntu (Even a journalist is human).

He held a town hall with the fellows whose number was this year doubled from the initial 500 in 2014 and 2015.

The 1,000 fellows came from 49 African countries and studied at universities in four different tracks: Business and Enterpreneurship, Civic Engagement, Public Management and Energy.

As is common for him, just his first few words caused a lot of excitements and standing ovations by the fellows.

Later, President Obama gave a wide ranging speech from issues such as corruption to women’s rights, development and US-Africa relations.

The 44th US President spoke for about 30 minutes and then devoted over an hour to a question and answer session which saw fellows asking him questions on various issues.

He also recognised three youths for their hardwork in various areas such as governance, human rights and entrepreneurship.

President Obama also described John Paul Usman as a dedicated youth who will earned himself the title of Mandela Washington fellow and will continue having it even in death.

Usman drowned in June a few days after arriving in Virginia for the six weeks training under the Mandela Washington Fellowship.

Trade

President Obama said he was working hard to ensure that the volume of trade across the Atlantic grows every year.

“We are working hard to boost trade with Africa. I’m just from signing an executive order which will encourage more American companies to invest in Africa. This year am also hosting the second US-Africa Business Forum,” said President Obama.

President Obama addressing the Mandela fellows
He said when trade increases between the US and Africa, more jobs will be created.


Youths

Possibly the most important part of his speech was a line were he pledged to ensure the Mandela Washington Fellowship continues to bring young African leaders to the USA beyond his retirement.

“I will continue with the YALI (Young African Leaders Initiative) program even after I leave office next year because I believe in it.”

He also disclosed that over 250,000 youths across sub-Sahara Africa had so far joined the YALI online Network where they are organising grassroot activities.

President Obama added that over 150,000 certificates had been issued to youths who had completed online courses on various issues.

Democracy

Answering a question from a Congolese fellow who asked him to personally sort out the on-going conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, President Obama said there was need for Africa to make a different and not blame the past.

“We should not always blame the past for what we are going through. It is now our time to make a difference. If people in the past messed up, our current generation must make a difference and make democracy thrive.”

He however conceded that democracy was not only a problem in the developing world but even in the oldest democracies.

He said democracy was hard even in the US but all players in the country were committed to its tenets.

On His Two Terms In The White House

President Obama spent more time to talk about his two terms in office which come to an end on January 20, 2017.
Fellows raising hands to ask questions

“The financial crisis of 2007 to 2008 was the biggest challenge. It hit us just when I entered office. But we worked hard and averted the worst of the crisis,” he said in response to a question posed by Charles Tembo of Zambia on Facebook.

The ongoing conflicts in Syria and South Sudan also pose a challenge to his presidency.

He said these wars are a source of his daily frustration.

Media

President Obama called for a free press in Africa adding that the media promotes transparency and accountability to those in public offices.

He said in America, the media always probes in order for the public service to serve the people efficiently.   

President Obama said most leaders who fight the media are those who overstay in office or those who have something to hide.

“In my two terms, I have also had a fair share with the media. Sometimes I read newspapers and think ‘no they are being unfair to me.’ But sometimes I see what they report and I smile.”

He however accepted that American TV networks always reported Africa with stereotypes saying Africa appears only when there is war, poverty or disease.

President Obama has encouraged African journalists and every African to take the lead in telling the African success story.

His Advise To Young Politicians

When asked by Folanski Aina of Nigeria what his words were to aspiring politicians, President Obama said anyone who thinks of going to politics must first check himself or herself.

“If you want to join politics, first ask yourself a question: ‘What do you want to do for people?’ Can’t you do that even without being elected? It is not only with an office that you can serve people.”

He said his ascendancy to the national scene was not easy.

President Obama disclosed that when he was a Senator in Illinois, he ran for US Congress but lost and when he tried for the second time, he told his wife Michelle that when he loses he will leave politics but he ended up winning.

Some of the Zambian fellows during the Town Hall
He revealed that when then Democratic presumptive nominee John Kerry chose him to speak at the party’s National Convention in 2004, he did not know that the speech would earn propel him to stardom and help him get nomination for the presidency four years later.

“John Kerry accidentally picked me to speak at the convention in 2004. The following day, I was all over in the media and a crowd of hundreds stood outside waiting to greet me.

I walked towards them with a friend of mine and I told them ‘I’m not more smarter than I was yesterday.”

His Legacy

President Obama said he wants to be remembered for having been a good parent who brought up his children well.

“I don’t want to be remembered for having given that powerful speech at some conference or things like that….. One day when I will be on my deathbed, I will be happy to remember how I held the hand of one of my daughters and walked her in a park.”