ZAMBIANS have great lessons to learn from the Ugandan elections at the weekend which has been roundly condemned for its violence and the alleged involvement of security forces to ensure victory for the incumbent.
Our very own statesman Rupiah Banda, leader of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) observation team, condemned the violence and intimidation that characterized the Ugandan parliamentary and presidential election that handed President Yoweri Museveni his fifth term in office.
In Zambia right now there are genuine fears that unless political party leaders sit round a table and dialogue to end the pockets of violence that have been witnessed in the past several months, the country is headed for a bloodbath in August.
There is a real fear gripping the country that unless politicians can openly condemn the behaviour of their cadres and take action against anyone found wanting this coming tripartite election will be heralded by bloodshed.
We applaud the efforts of the ruling party who have led by example and have suspended or expelled several of their cadres who have been caught or suspected to be involved in inter-party or intra-party skirmishes. This is how all political parties, especially the United Party for National Development (UPND), must act.
President Edgar Lungu acted decisively against senior PF cadres who harassed UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema at Moba Hotel in Kitwe who are now facing the wrath of the law. The mob that prevented Miles Sampa from embarking from his plane at Ndola airport are being hunted by the police.
Right now 21 ruling party cadres are being held by the police for allegedly being found with pangas, axes and knives in a bus whose destination has not been disclosed. These are honourable efforts by the police and ruling party leaders who want to walk the talk on curbing political violence.
But we are shocked that the entire UPND leadership have been defensive on glaring incidents of cadre-instigated violence such as the unprovoked attack on the home of Vice President Inonge Wina in Muoyo which was witnessed by Mr Hichilema himself.
Only last week a suspected UPND militia attacked Government officials returning from a rally addressed by the Head of State by blocking the Bweengwa-Monze road with trees and rocks and stoned people and vehicles that drove into the ambush they had set. In a show of unprecedented arrogance and defiance, they shepherded their victims, including police officers who laid down their weapons to keep the peace, to an area where the militia held them captive for several hours.
In reaction to this crude and unprovoked escalation of political violence that shocked Zambians, UPND leaders tried to justify it by all manner of arrogant excuses including the absurd allusion that it was sponsored by the ruling party.
It is this kind of attitude which strengthens the widely held belief that this year’s election could be bloody. To the UPND leadership, their cadres can do no wrong. They are above the law; they are answerable to no one. They do as they please. If they can behave so violently and arrogantly in the opposition, God forbid if they were to assume power and get their orders from Plot 1.
We make a passionate appeal to all political leaders of conscience and who love this country that they must do everything in their power to root out violence in their parties and teach their cadres to live and campaign in peace with their opponents.
Zambians have only one country and can be ruled by only one government at a time.