from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – ZAMBIA has disputed allegations, raised by Amnesty International, that the government was curtailing people’s freedoms in the run-up to August 12 elections.
The accusations are carried in a report released on Monday, titled, “Ruling by Fear and Repression.”
Amnesty International alleged “killings and brutal crackdowns” against dissent had set the tone for the polls.
Amos Malupenda, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services, reacted strongly to the report.
The government spokesperson suggested Amnesty International was biased and inferred the rights group had vested interests in the election outcome.
“Government urges the Zambian people to remain calm and understand that it is not unusual for some organisations like Amnesty International to cause panic when they anticipate that an election outcome is not likely to suit their preferences,” he said.
Malupenda said contrary to assertions, a vibrant civil society existed in Zambia, alongside a thriving independent media and an impartial judiciary that protected civil liberties and checks any possible excesses of the executive.
Amnesty had asserted that authorities targeted opposition leaders, journalists, media houses and activists for speaking out against allegations of government corruption or abuse.
Malupenda disputed this, saying Zambians were free to criticise public officials while opposition parties were allowed to conduct public meetings in accordance with the law and the public health guidelines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
These conditions are not unique to Zambia.
“It is, therefore, not true that people who engage in these activities are arrested for merely engaging in such activities,” Malupenda said.
The spokesperson assured Zambian citizens and the international community that there was no cause for alarm.
Polls are set to be the most tightly-contested in the nation’s history.
Incumbent, Edgar Lungu, seeks re-election. Businessman, Haikande Hichilema, is again his biggest rival.
– CAJ News