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Democratic gains: Let’s all safeguard them

SINCE attaining political independence from the British colonial administration in 1964, Zambia has been a shining example of democracy in the region and Africa as a whole.From that year, three republics have emerged in Zambia and under the First Republic, then United National Independence Party leader Kenneth Kaunda was elected head of State. However, Dr Kaunda’s leadership was later deemed to have increasingly become authoritarian and intolerant of opposition.These traits culminated in a constitutional amendment which created a one-party state and birthed the Second Republic in 1972, and Zambia remained a one-party state until 1991. Due to pressure from opposing groups that included the Church and civic institutions, Dr Kaunda assented to legislation that allowed the return to multi-party politics, which birthed the Third Republic, and elections were held in 1991. The Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD), a coalition led by then Zambia Congress of Trade Unions leader Frederick Chiluba, won the elections and Dr Kaunda graciously conceded defeat.Since then, Zambia has been on a positive democratic governance trajectory that has seen three political parties change the leadership of the country.
After the departure of Dr Kaunda in 1991, Dr Chiluba presided over the affairs of the country for a decade, after which he left.He was succeeded by Levy Mwanawasa, still under MMD, but unfortunately he died while in office, after which Rupiah Banda took over power until the 2011 general elections, which he lost to Michael Sata. Like Dr Kaunda, Mr Banda accepted the loss of elections and kindly left the Presidency for Mr Sata.In 2021, former President Edgar Lungu lost to incumbent Hakainde Hichilema and peacefully handed over the instruments of power to the latter. This peaceful transfer of power in Zambia is characteristic of a maturing democracy which President Hichilema is working hard to further entrench.Since assuming power in 2021, Mr Hichilema’s administration has been strengthening democratic tenets in Zambia by allowing the media to operate freely and civil society organisations to participate in the governance of the country.
The Second Summit for Democracy which Zambia co-hosted with four other countries the past two days inspired the country’s desire to strengthen its democratic governance structures.“On our part as Zambia, we are committed to ensuring a free media, protecting freedom of assembly and association, as well as ensuring an independent electoral commission,” Mr Hichilema told summit delegates yesterday.
Indeed, the media now operates freely and there is no more harassment or attacks on radio stations that feature opposition political leaders like the case was previously. Violence during election campaigns is rarely heard of, including on actual polling day.To further promote freedom of assembly and association, the archaic Public Order Act which ruling parties used to manipulate to disadvantage opposition political parties is being reviewed. All these efforts are aimed at strengthening democratic governance in the country and ensure that elections are held in a peaceful, free and fair environment. But for these efforts to bear fruit,they should not be left to the head of State alone. They should be a collective responsibility and all citizens should play a part in entrenching democratic tenets in our country