Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Commitment to peaceful, violence-free by-elections

Commitment to peaceful, violence-free by-elections
By The Post
Tue 05 Feb. 2013, 16:00 CAT

POLITICS without civility and tolerance are useless. If we all start to regard politics as a vocation, a way of building society for the common good, there will be no need for violence in elections. Politics is an area of great importance for promoting justice, peace, development and community among all.

No one deserves to be elected unless they have respect for the people and are there to promote peace and harmony in the community.

The enjoyment of the right to peace requires an active commitment against any form of injustice. Any form of injustice lays the foundation for violence. We therefore invite all the political parties participating in the Livingstone and Mpongwe parliamentary by-elections to reflect on peace: on its true meaning, on the conditions for its existence and on the obstacles to its establishment.

And on what they themselves ought to do to inherit the reward promised by the Lord when He said: "Happy are the peacemakers; they shall be called children of God" (Matthew 5:8).

Campaigns must be carried out in a peaceful and honest way, devoid of any violence and slander of other opponents. All must be guided by the truth, integrity and justice.

It is necessary to remind all political parties, their candidates, cadres and supporters that politics and the elections that accompany them is for the good of people and the country, and not for a political survival of any individual or party.

If the spirit of the primacy of the common good were to animate all the parties, we would not witness the election violence which leaves the public dismayed and disheartened.

It's pleasing to see and hear all the political parties taking part in the Livingstone parliamentary by-election committing themselves to ensuring that the forthcoming by-elections are held in peaceful and violence-free manner.
It is the duty of all to express concern regarding instances of intolerance and intimidation.

We call upon the leadership, cadres and supporters of all political parties to avoid distorted presentations of their opponents and indeed of the situation in our country. Responsible politics demands a fair assessment of everyone, of everything, of the country, of its present state and of what can reasonably be expected for the coming years. We need to remember the lesson: "The truth will set you free" (John 8:32).

In the present atmosphere of fierce competition and character assassination, we remind our politicians and their supporters of the noble goals of political activity. Politics should aim at the promotion of the common good and the service of all the people. Political debates should concentrate on programmes to improve the life of the nation rather than on character assassination. There is an urgent need for understanding and dialogue.

Those who are ready to join hands, as the political parties participating in the Livingstone by-election have done, can overcome the greatest challenges.

Politics should be conducted in a manner that respects and enhances the lives of others. If you want to mobilise every section of the population, you can't do it with violence, with feelings of hatred and intolerance.

Our political leaders and their supporters should not think through their blood but through their brains. The use of violence against anyone puts them next to animals. And no one can build a united nation on the basis of violence.

Political violence must be consciously combated and not discreetly tolerated. We should never allow our country to play host to political violence. Nor should our voices be stilted if we see that another, regardless of his political affiliation, is a victim of political violence. Political violence is a blight on our collective conscience.

We detest political violence because we regard it as a barbaric thing. It pollutes the political atmosphere in our country and poisons the minds of the backward, the bigoted and the prejudiced.

It would be immoral to keep quiet while political criminals seek to destroy the nobility of our politics through violence. We should treat the question of peaceful, free, fair and transparent elections as a common challenge for all of us.

This is so because as long as the majority of our people cannot elect their representatives in free, fair and peaceful elections, there will always be tension and conflict. Political violence threatens not only the gains we have made but also our collective future. One violent by-election anywhere in our country is one too many.

We therefore need to exert ourselves that much more, and break out of the vicious cycle of violence and counter-violence.

Our right to vote bears positive fruits when people choose good representatives who will serve their communities with justice towards all. Therefore, the campaigns in these by-elections should avoid tribalistic outlook or sectionalism and look for the common good of all the people and enter into sincere dialogue with other opponents, even in cases of political divergence.

Political violence must be avoided because the electoral campaign should not be confused with a battlefield where the aim is to destroy the other. Real political victory lies on the ideals proposed, on the ethical values of the candidates, on the respect for the freedom of choice of all citizens, and not on any form of moral pressure or intimidation of political opponents or voters.

And in casting one's vote, one should never be swayed by personal profit, but solely by consideration of which of the conflicting issues or candidates is better for the community. We should scrutinise the people who wish to represent us and select our candidate strictly according to the good we think they can do. The interests of the political parties should be kept subordinate to the public good.

Violence, verbal or physical, during the campaigns is an affront against the rights of voters and the rights of the electoral candidates.

We should always use our vote as a weapon - a powerful one - for unity, an instrument of justice and peace. On our voting, on the quality of it, the discernment behind it, depend the progress and peace of our country.

Therefore, good elections require intelligent and responsible participation of all. Let's use the forthcoming by-elections to show our political maturity and our sincere aspiration for peace and harmony anchored in justice.

To have peaceful, free and fair by-elections, certain conditions have to prevail in our country and in our hearts. There ought to be a conducive atmosphere.

The major players have to agree on the conditions under which these by-elections would be held as is the case in Livingstone. The contestants have to conduct themselves in a manner that does not put others at an unfair disadvantage.

We therefore welcome the political parties' declared commitment to peaceful elections. All political parties must publicly denounce violence of any sort. Constructive dialogue should be encouraged at all times on key electoral issues.

In the light of these necessary conditions, we make a special appeal to the Electoral Commission of Zambia to realise that they have a serious responsibility. As facilitators of the elections, they should ensure that concerns of all the key players are adequately addressed.

We also make an appeal to the opposition parties about the need for them to be open and constructive in participating in the electoral process and in addressing whatever issues arise.

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