from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – THE United States has threatened to impose sanctions on individuals compromising the holding of credible elections in Zambia.
There are indications conflict will undermine democracy in the country of 18,9 million people, over 8 million of them eligible to cast their votes on Thursday.
Tensions and deadly violence have battered the usually stable country leading to the polls, projected to be the most closely contested.
The ruling Patriotic Front (PF) of incumbent, Edgar Lungu (aged 64), and United Party for National Development (UPND), led by Haikande Hichilema (59), blame each other for the violence that has left an unspecified number of people dead.
David Young, the US Ambassador to Zambia, said his country would support a free, fair, transparent and peaceful democratic process in the Southern African nation.
He reiterated US provision of funding and programmes to support democracy and elections.
US funding for Zambia provides technical assistance to strengthen elections administration, stakeholder management, and voter education.
This enables civil society organizations to undertake nationwide monitoring and observation of key electoral processes, including election day polling, and to develop and implement advocacy strategies to strengthen the election system.
“When these efforts to support democracy do not work and fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms are violated, the US can and does apply visa restrictions, travel bans and financial sanctions,” Young said.
The envoy said US applies these measures because “we are serious about our commitment to human rights and democratic principles.
“We will hold accountable any individuals who promote violence, undermine electoral processes, engage in fraudulent or corrupt behavior, or otherwise violate democratic rights and the foundations of free elections.”
Young denounced intimidation of voters and urged police and military to be impartial.
On Monday, Lungu condemned the violence.
“The politically motivated murders we have seen recently must be condemned in the strongest terms. All culprits must be booked and punished,” Lungu said.
He warned violent polls could scuttle investments into one of the world’s biggest producers of the copper mineral.
“This is why peace must be maintained at all costs,” Lungu said.
The sixth president of the former Northern Rhodesia since independence in 1964, he is seeking a second term, in contest with 15 other candidates.
Relations between US and Zambia have previously been strained, most recently in 2019 when the American government withdrew its ambassador, Daniel Foote, following a row with authorities after he criticised the jailing of a gay couple.
Lungu openly criticised the envoy.
Critics accuse the former defense minister of being a dictator.
– CAJ News