Editor's Comment

Sensitise cadres on peace pact

FILE picture: President Edgar Lungu (left) shaking hands with UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema. PICTURE: ANGELA NTENTABUNGA

EXACTLY a month ago, hopes of many peace-loving Zambians were ignited when the ruling Patriot Front (PF) and opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) signed an agreement to end political violence.
To many, this seemed like a signal for a new era of peace and co-existence, especially for the two perceived political rivals – the PF and UPND.
Zambia has in the recent past experienced a rise in political violence perpetuated by mostly cadres from the two major political parties.
This violence has been more pronounced during political campaigns and polls.
It was, therefore, heartening to see the two perceived rival political parties sit on one table to pledge their commitment to ending violence.
Records have it that PF youth and security chairperson Stephen Kampyongo and UPND deputy youth chairperson Munji Habeenzu appended their signatures to the “peace pact” to demonstrate their parties’ commitment to ending violence.
During the signing ceremony, the political parties pledged to implement several measures to end violence.
Both parties pledged to hold peaceful elections and embark on massive campaigns to end violence.
They promised to disarm cadres and that they would no longer move with guns, pangas or any other offensive weapons.
On behalf of UPND, Mr Habeenzu pledged: “Our [UPND] youths shall not wear masks or military fatigues but will freely wear party T-shirts. We shall exercise high levels of tolerance and we shall refrain from hate speech and focus on issue-based campaigns.”
Mr Kampyongo equally pledged the ruling party’s commitment to uphold the resolutions of the peace pact.
“We, the PF youth league, stand opposed to violence. We are one people and violence is criminality. There is no justification for violence. President Edgar Lungu has clearly stated that no-one should be shielded for committing violence under the guise of a political party,” he said.
Mr Kampyongo said by signing the peace pact, the youths in PF and UPND had opened a new page of embracing peace and tolerance.
This is what we were all made to believe.
We are, however, taken aback that one month after the signing of the peace pact, violence is rearing its ugly head again.
We are particularly concerned about reports of violence in Kasempa’s Nkeyema ward, where suspected UPND cadres, armed with knives, stones and catapults on Friday night, attacked and injured PF members.
The cadres allegedly ransacked three PF campaign centres which have been set up in Nkeyema ward ahead of the September 6 local government by-election being contested by two brothers, Killan Matolokoshi and Kapayila Matolokoshi, adopted by the PF and UPND, respectively.
North-Western Province Commissioner of Police Hudson Namachila said police have so far recorded nine cases of assault involving PF and UPND cadres but have not yet made arrests.
Surely, this cannot be allowed to continue, especially after the signing of the peace agreement in which the two major political parties committed to uphold peace and co-exist.
This could indicate that despite signing the peace agreement, the message and the stance taken by the parties have not yet trickled to the cadres, who are the major perpetrators of violence.
The perpetrators of violence seem detached from the pledges made by their parties to forsake violence and any acts that undermine peace.
Political leaders in particular have an obligation to sensitise members of all ranks and file, particularly those at the grassroots on the need to uphold the agreement.
The two political parties will do well to jointly carry out sensitisation campaigns. This will have more impact.
Political leaders should also ensure that sensitisation against violence is not only restricted to Lusaka but extended to all other provinces across the country.
Political leaders need to get the message loud and clear to all members on the evils of violence.
Cadres need to understand that beyond political divides, we are all sons and daughters of mother Zambia.
The election in Nkeyema, where two brothers are contesting against each other, is a clear lesson that in a democracy, difference in political opinion is not enmity.
This is why we can have members of the same household belonging to different political parties – it is called democracy.
Cadres need to be schooled that by injuring political opponents, they are doing so to their own brothers, sisters and friends.
As a country, we have come too far to auction our hard-earned peace at the altar of political expediency.
Let political leaders of all files and rank take responsibility. The buck stops at them to put their houses in order.
For those who will be found to be behind attacks in Nkeyema, the law must take its full course.

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