Editor's Comment

Rights are for all

ZAMBIA’S respect for human rights is based, first of all, on its own laws and, secondly, on it being a signatory to major United Nations and regional treaties.
Home-grown laws are best for any country, but because no country is an island, there is need to embed international treaties in local laws.
To this end, Zambia has done exceptionally. Better still, not only does Zambia have these laws on paper but is also committed to going by what it pledges to uphold.
Ratifying international conventions is a significant step towards the country’s obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all citizens.
This is what President Edgar Lungu reaffirmed at State House yesterday when he swore in Agness Chongo as a Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission (HRC).
President Lungu said Government will continue to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all citizens.
He assured that Government will also respect and protect institutions such as the Judiciary, National Assembly, Human Rights Commission, Judicial Complaints Authority and the Police Public Complaints Authority, which are critical in the preservation of human rights.
The Bill of Rights embodied in Part III of the Constitution provides for the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms.
Zambia has over the years made enormous strides to ensure that citizens’ rights are not only guaranteed but upheld.
Despite this, the country still has some work to do to further improve the human rights of citizens. This is because some of those that are expected to uphold these rights are the ones infringing them.
Some do so out of sheer impunity while others do so out of ignorance.  Whatever the reason, there is no justification for infringing on anyone’s human rights.
It is understandable, however, that the quest for human rights is a continuous process. It cannot be expected to be achieved overnight or with the wave of a wand.
Like the President noted, no country in the world, including the United States of America, considered as the mother of democracy, can boast of having a 100 percent record of human rights.
A case in point is the evident infringement of some citizens in the United States as highlighted recently when the death of George Floyd triggered countrywide protests against police brutality targeted at Blacks, hence the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.
The desire though continues to be having a society in which every person is accorded the basic rights that provide for equal opportunities and justice.
That is why the Bill of Rights must have a firm place in the country’s Constitution as this would make it a right to have access to education, health, housing and social security.
Unfortunately, there are Zambians who have a tendency of opposing just about everything proposed by the Government which, it ought to be said, was put in place by the majority of Zambians.
For really no good reason at all, these Zambians objected to having the Bill of Rights accordingly enacted. This was hardly four years ago. Today, they are the same ones crying on top of their voices that there are human rights abuses.
Ordinarily, it would be best to ignore such critics of everything, but a close eye just has to be kept on them because they could ‘poison’ the thinking of others, and before the country knows it, citizens would be stripped of their rights.
Fortunately, Government has remained resolute and focused on what is good for every Zambian, including the anti-Bill of Rights group.
As it were, despite not being covered in the Bill of Rights, Government attaches great importance to the provision of education, health, housing and social security as they are critical to the realisation of political and civil rights.
Zambia has ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCRs) to actualise economic, social and cultural rights, critical for the country grappling with inadequate schools, hospitals, social security, decent shelter and clean water for the majority of the population.
Among the milestones in the quest to ensure that human rights are adhered to is the establishment of an independent HRC, which is mandated to investigate human rights violations and maladministration of justice, and propose measures to prevent human rights abuses.
The HRC is among many institutions set up as human rights watchdogs in the country, and these have kept the discourse alive in maintaining checks and balances.

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