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Zambia: HRW Report on Elections
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Zambia: HRW Report on Elections
Date Distributed (ymd): 961208
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HRW/Africa Alarmed by Seriously Flawed Election Process, Calls
on Zambian Government to Improve its Human Rights Record
Abuses in Runup to Elections Require Strong International
(27 Nov 96)--In "Zambia: Elections and Human Rights in the
Third Republic," released today, Human Rights Watch/Africa
charges that numerous human rights violations before the
November 18 vote seriously undermined the legitimacy of the
elections themselves and set a negative tone for the country's
development over the next several years. In these
parliamentary and presidential elections, the Movement for
Multiparty Democracy (MMD) won a majority and President
Frederick Chiluba was returned for a second term. The vote
marked the second multiparty election since 1991, when
twenty-seven years of authoritarian rule under Kenneth Kaunda
Zambia had been heralded as a model for democracy in Africa
after the peaceful transfer of power in 1991. The report
details that although Zambia initially made overall progress
toward respect for civil and political rights, with some
liberalizing reforms, by 1993 the progress appeared to have
stopped and the Chiluba government increasingly resorted to
methods used under Kaunda rule to suppress criticism.
"The result is that Zambian citizens are plagued by
restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly,
intimidation of those in the legal system and harassment of
opposition parties," said Peter Takirambudde, Executive
Director for Human Rights Watch/Africa and one of the authors
of the report. "Some of these abuses are the legacy of the
Kaunda years, but in many cases human rights violations are
the results of new initiatives by the Chiluba government. We
are particularly concerned at increasing government efforts to
undermine the NGOs and the judiciary. They are essential
foundations of any democracy."
In calling on The World Bank's Consultative Group for Zambia,
the U.S. government and Southern African Development Community
countries to continue to pressure the Zambian government to
improve its record on human rights, Takirambudde stated, "The
international response to the Zambia crisis has been
impressive to date. Unity in pressing the government for
improved human rights reforms is essential and general support
for civic associations and in particular groups that lobby and
campaign for human rights standards is needed."
The fifty-three-page report details how state intimidation of
the opposition increased significantly in 1995 when former
president Kaunda announced a formal return to politics. The
runup to the November 18 elections saw a number of abuses.
There is evidence that duplicate National Registration Cards
were been issued to some voters, that the names of others have
been omitted from voters rolls and that duplicate National
Registration Cards appeared on the rolls. The ruling MMD also
deliberately blurred the distinction between party and state.
In Lusaka's Soweto Market the MMD conducted a voter
registration exercise, with MMD supporters pressuring voters
to confirm their affiliation to the MMD. Human Rights
Watch/Africa also obtained documentation proving a government
plan to augment the police with MMD supporters prior to the
elections. Government officials also threatened to deny state
services and programs to constituencies that did not vote for
the ruling MMD.
The main opposition party, the United National Independence
Party (UNIP) also engaged in electoral abuses in by-elections.
UNIP sympathizers assaulted MMD supporters and villagers they
suspected of backing the MMD. Such inter-political clashes in
the by-elections restricted freedom of movement among
villagers in several constituencies.
The government forced a radical amendment to the 1991
constitution through the MMD-dominated parliament in May 1996.
Particularly controversial was a provision that imposed new
requirements on persons seeking to become president. These
included that a candidate be a Zambian citizen born of parents
who are Zambian by birth or descent and that the candidate not
be a tribal chief. These requirements appeared to be tailored
to disqualify specific opposition leaders from running for
president, including former president Kenneth Kaunda - who is
partially of Malawian heritage - and UNIP's vice presidential
candidate - a tribal chief. These restrictions violate the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which
Zambia is a party.
In June and July 1996, a shadowy group called the "Black
Mamba" was blamed by the government for a spate of bomb blasts
in Zambia that killed one person. Eight UNIP officials
including its vice president were arrested in connection with
the bombings and were committed to the Lusaka High Court
charged with treason and murder. The trial provided little
evidence to suggest that these UNIP members were involved in
any violent conspiracy against the state. It appeared they
were detained solely because of their political affiliation.
They were acquitted of treason and murder charges by the High
Court in November.
The independent press was also the target of government
intimidation. "The Post" newspaper has been under particular
attack. In February 1996 police arrested three of its editors
and banned edition 401 before its distribution because it
reported that the government was secretly planning to hold a
referendum on the constitution without giving the public time
to prepare. The day's on-line edition was also banned, making
it the first act of censorship on the Internet in Africa.
RECOMMENDATIONS To the Government:
Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on the Zambian government to:
* Guarantee the independence of the judiciary as required by
Zambian and international law. In particular, the government
should not orchestrate the appointment or dismissal of judges
solely because of their political affiliations or regional
* Publicly dissociate itself from and condemn any efforts by
public officials to undermine the independence of the
* Facilitate debate of the Mwanakatwe Constitutional Review
Commission proposals; call elections to a constituent assembly
to review and as appropriate amend the 1991 Constitution
* Guarantee the right to a fair trial by a competent and
objective judiciary in accord with international standards. In
cases where this right has been violated, submit the case for
retrial or release the defendant. No one should be detained
solely for the nonviolent expression of his or her political
* As promised by the MMD in its election platform in 1991 and
in 1996, ensure that all Zambians may exercise their rights to
freedom of expression and association, that the organizations
of civil society may freely operate, and that checks and
balances of the different branches of government are
respected. Safeguards to this end should be enacted into law.
* Guarantee that people with diverse viewpoints are given
appropriate access to state-owned radio and television.
* Ensure a strict division between the functioning of
government and the MMD party.
* Stop providing state funds and facilities to support the
MMD's political campaigns.
* Investigate allegations of police abuse and improper
treatment of those in detention, and hold those found
responsible accountable before the law.
* Guarantee that prisoners' rights are respected according to
international law. This includes the right to be free from
torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or
punishment, and the right to adequate medical and sanitary
* Enact into law the Munyama Commission's recommendation that
a permanent human rights commission be established. Ensure
that this commission is objective and nonpartisan to avoid the
possibility of political bias.
* Provide government officials and police with special
training about human rights standards and protection, while
instituting procedures through which violations of human
rights are the subject of effective investigation and criminal
To All Political Parties:
Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on all Zambian political
parties to publicly advocate protection and respect for human
rights in their platform and promise to hold party members who
commit human rights abuses accountable.
To the International Community:
Human Rights Watch/Africa recommends that the international
* Continue to pressure the government to improve its record on
human rights as integral to good governance, especially with
respect to government transparency and accountability for its
actions, through formal communications and other measures such
as the conditioning of balance of payments support.
* Support the efforts of civic organizations to play an active
role in civil society, and in particular their efforts to
monitor, lobby and campaign for improved human rights
Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on The World Bank's
Consultative Group for Zambia ("Paris Club") to:
* Continue the Bournemouth meeting's agreed pressure on the
Zambian government for "tangible progress on the governance
issue," and include specific reference to human rights as
integral to this.
* Maintain unity in the pressure for an improved Zambian
government performance on human rights as integral to good
Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on the United States to:
* Encourage new U.S. ambassador Arlene Render to act on her
commitment to vigorously promote human rights in Zambia by
meeting regularly with the Zambia human rights community,
publicly denounce human rights abuses, and use U.S. bilateral
assistance to Zambia to achieve maximum leverage on human
Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on The Southern Africa
Development Community (SADC) to:
* Continue to press the Zambian government to improve its
human rights record.
* Send an investigative team from the SADC Organ on Politics,
Defense and Security to Zambia to report back to the Organ
about how its member states can improve the human rights
record in Zambia.
* Malawi must clarify its position over accepting the forced
repatriation of alleged "Malawians" from Zambia, several of
these individuals being prominent members of the Zambian
opposition who appear arbitrarily to have been stripped of
their Zambian nationalities in violation of international
Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on The Commonwealth
Secretariat to send a fact-finding mission to Zambia to
investigate human rights practices across the country.
Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on The African Commission for
Human and Peoples' Rights to send a mission to investigate
Zambia's current human rights situation.
For additional copies of "Zambia: Elections and Human Rights
in the Third Republic," please send $6.00 (domestic) or $7.50
(international) to Publications Department, Human Rights
Watch, 485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6104.
Human Rights Watch/Africa Human Rights Watch is a
nongovernmental organization established in 1978 to monitor
and promote the observance of internationally recognized human
rights in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and
among the signatories of the Helsinki accords. Kenneth Roth is
the executive director and Robert L. Bernstein is the chair of
the board. Its Africa division was established in 1988 to
monitor and promote the observance of internationally
recognized human rights in sub-Saharan Africa. Peter
Takirambudde is the executive director and William Carmichael
is the chair of the advisory committee.
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