THE decision by President Lungu and United Party for National Development (UPND) president Hakainde Hichilema to dialogue is certainly
a step in the right direction and should be supported by all well-meaning Zambians.
Since the August 11 general elections last year, the country has gone through some political “tests” with the opposition leader and his supporters refusing to recognise President Lungu as duly elected head of State.
This is despite local and international stakeholders such as the Commonwealth and African Union validating the Electoral Commision of Zambia (ECZ) results which declared President Lungu as duly elected.
Concerned about the situation which has seen some political clashes among cadres and damage to property, a number of stakeholders such as the Church and non-governmental organisations have been calling for dialogue.
President Lungu on several occasions indicated that he was ready to dialogue. However, the process was hampered by the opposition’s failure to put closure to the August 11 elections through acceptance of results.
We are however overjoyed that the two leaders have decided not to look backwards but to look forward to the next election to promote peace and stability.
Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland, who was recently in the country to pave way for reconciliation and negotiations, said the two leaders have agreed to a process of dialogue which will subsequently lead to the creation of a road map of election reforms ahead of the 2021 general elections.
Ms Scotland, who held separate meetings with President Lungu and Mr Hichilema during her three-day visit, said, “His Excellency President Lungu and the honourable leader of the main opposition UPND, Mr Hakainde Hichilema, both being committed to the values and aspirations set out in the Commonwealth Charter, peace and harmony particularly in this peace building year of the Commonwealth, have agreed to a process of dialogue.”
Whereas we commend the Commonwealth for initiating dialogue on such an important matter which borders on the sustainability of our peace, we also applaud the two leaders for exhibiting selfless leadership and political maturity.
The magnanimous decision by the two leaders to agree to dialogue is not only beneficial to them and their party members but the country as a whole.
This is because dialogue is a critical factor in the sustenance of harmony and democracy.
We are happy that the two leaders understand that it is not worthy sacrificing the peace that we have enjoyed for over five decades.
We are particularly happy that the opposition leader has agreed to move on and look forward to the future elections. This is much more that dialogue depended on his willingness to move on.
Now that leaders of the two major political parties have agreed to dialogue, it is also our hope that this will bring a new era of tolerance and coexistence in Zambia’s politics. We look forward to the end of political clashes among cadres.
While the stage has been set for dialogue, we appeal to the Commonwealth, who are the conveners, to ensure that the process is handled with utmost care to avoid jeopardising the chances of success.
The Commonwealth should ensure neutrality in deliberating over the dialogue process. We expect them to handle the dialogue process in a manner that inspires confidence in both parties, as appears to be the case so far.
It is also our hope that the Commonwealth will do an exhaustive study from both ends to understand all intricacies surrounding the matters under contention.
We are happy that the Commonwealth has assured that the process of coming up with the road map for election reforms will be inclusive and consultative.
Ms Scotland said the process will also involve other political parties, civil society, church leaders and other stakeholders.
Inclusiveness and wide consultation is critical to the success of the dialogue.
We urge the parties involved to approach the dialogue process with open minds ready to give and take.
Above all it is our hope that as stakeholders go into the dialogue arena they will put national interest above individual and party interests.