OASIS FORUM STATEMENT ON AFRICAN FREEDOM DAY.
The Oasis Forum joins the rest of Zambia and Africa in commemorati the Africa Freedom Day. We remain grateful to our gallant women and men as well as youths who fought hard and paid enormous personal sacrifices to obtain for us the much-desired political independence and freedom. At the same time, we are not oblivious of the fact that the greater ideal dream of the founders of this country and of this commemoration was to have a Zambia and the entire continent of Africa that truly enjoys politic social, economic and religious freedom anchored on good governance and constitutional order. As we "celebrate" this day of great significance, we wish to ask whether Zambians of all walks of life are truly enjoying the inalienable and no-negotiable right to freedom of speech, association, movement as well as economic freedom. If not, why?
Freedom of Association:
The Oasis Forum wishes to remind All stakeholders in the governance of our country, including and particularly the Executive, that the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of association are inalienable and sacrosanct and that the same guaranteed in the Bill of Rights as established by the Zarnbian Constitution. As such, we believe that no person or government authority has the right to violate these constitutional rights of citizens, unless under compelling and clearly deserving circumstances, as provided for in the Republican Constitution. We are therefore shocked to hear of the reported reasons often advanced by the police that there would be no sufficie personnel to police a rally or public gathering especially of political parties in opposition. Interestingly, the same police who cited lack of personnel as the reason for cancellation would often manage to deploy hundreds of officers to prevent the holding of the same rally or public gathering. The public may wish to be reminded that when a similar reason was advanced by the police to deny citizens the right to hold a rally, the late Mr. Justice Peter Chitengi passed a High Court judgment which was well-reasoned, and which placed the law on police permits in its clear perspective. The Oasis Forum also bemoans the unprofessional conduct of the Zambia Police Service, whose officers seem to be paralyzed in the face of political cadres, especially those from the ruling party. At the same time, the Oasis Forum calls for a prompt wholesome review of the colonial and archaic Public Order Act (POA). We also call on the Zambia Police Service to rise to the occasion and administer the POA in a professional, objective and fair manner. In so doing, all Zambians will truly feel proud, free and d ly protected.
Freedom of Expression:
The Oasis Forum further bemoans the rising levels of political intolerance and intimidation as recently seen in incidents of electoral violence in Chilanga Constituency. We are also shocked that personal threats and attacks against citizens (such as Pilato) and members of the private media are slowly but surely becoming the order of the day. The Oasis Forum strongly believes that violence and acts of intimidation should have no place in a multi-party democracy such as ours. These attacks appear to us to be a well calculated attempt by the powers that be to diminish dissenting voices of citizens. However, the Republic of Zambia is still a constitutional democracy. For this democracy to thrive, basic human rights such as freedom of expression must be allowed to exist. This allows for the free flow of information to the Zambian citizens as well s the Zambian government who will subsequently be in a better position to understand what the Zambian people need and want. We therefore call for a speedy enactment of the Access to Information Bill.
Freedom from Poverty:
Freedom without access to food, clean water, good sanitation, quality education, quality health services and quality jobs is not true freedom. For Zambians to appreciate and truly enjoy their freedom as children of God and citizens of our resource-rich nation, we must unite and fight against the root causes of the high levels of poverty in our beloved country. In this land of freedom, well-meaning citizens musnot only stand up and sing of freedom under the Zambian sun or the Zambian flag, but also gather the courage to hold their leaders accountable and defend the rights' holders. If we desire to be economically free,we must stand up and question whether the management of our national resources is such that they are prudently used to free the majority Zambians from the yoke of abject poverty. We therefore bemoan conduct such as the questionable trade of Mukula trees; the scandalous purchase of fire engines at an exorbitant price; and the recent mind-boggling theft of life-saving drugs at Medical Stores Limited.
Freedom Anchored on an Enhanced Bill of Rights:
We believe that the on-going violations of human rights as documented in a number of recent reports published by the Human Rights Commission exemplifies the need for the introduction of an enhanced Bill of Rights to address some of the shortfalls in our current Constitution such as, the lack of the right against arbitrary detention; the right to media freedoms; and the right to freedom of information. Whilst we appreciate that the referendum on the proposed enhanced Bill of Rights was not successful, we believe that this was due to the inopportune timing of it and a lack of awareness to citizenry as to the importance of having an enhanced Bill of Rights. We cannot stress enough how crucial it is to the welfare of the Zambian people that resources be found to conduct another referendum as soon as possible.
Freedom from Debt:
The Oasis Forum is further mindful of the fact not long ago, Zambia was caught up in a debt trap and could not chan most of its meager resources towards the needy sectors of educati n health and agriculture due to its contractual obligations with finance institutions. Therefore, we do not take lightly the growing concerns on-going debate over the real magnitude of Zambia's debt, the unclear payment of this obscure debt burden and the impact this debt eventually have on the livelihood of ordinary Zambians in the many years to come. We therefore commit ourselves to work closely with like-minded actors in vigilantly monitoring the management of our national Indeed, we cannot be truly free if we are but falling into a national debt that will almost be impossible to repay in this generation.
Freedom Anchored on the Constitution: Regarding the proposed refinement of the 2016 amendments to the Constitution, we wish to emphasize that any refinement of the Constitution must be done in order to make the reading, interpretation and implementation of the Constitution clearer and in line with the will of the Zambian people. We believe that the process of refinement should not include the removal or addition of any clauses in the Constitution which are contrary to what the will of the people is, as expressed in the Technical Committee's Final Report of 2014 and without sufficiently consulting the people of Zambia. We also believe that the terms of reference for the process of refinement should be guided and protected by the law to ensure that the process is free from partisan and political interference.
Freedom Anchored on Genuine National Dialogue:
The Oasis Fo believes that the biased application of the deficient POA, the lack of independent and impartial police service and the shrinking space or citizens to freely express themselves and belong to a political party of their choice has led to the current state of unforeseen polarisation. Unfortunately, our political leaders, on both sides of the divide, have not taken serious steps to adequately address the growing sense of divisionalong political, tribal and regional lines. Additionally, we recently emerged from a highly disputed general election and have witnessed a growing trend of politically motivated violence. As such, the majority of Zambians agree that we need to engage in national dialogue in order to resolve these and other major issues. We therefore take this opportunity to call up Zambian leaders to rise above their partisan agenda and engage in a genuine and inclusive dialogue, preferably led by a credible institution such as the three Church mother bodies and is truly aimed at national reconciliation that is anchored on peace, truth and justice.
In conclusion, we urge the government to refrain from taking any active or making any utterances that may undermine the image and reputation of the country as a beacon of democracy and the rule of law. We urge the government and all citizens to help foster responsible freedom, reconciliation, peace and unity in the nation as we aspire for true economi freedom. Indeed, "united we stand, divided we fall."
Mr. Eddie Mwitwa
CHAIRPERSON - OASIS FORUM ... See more
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