Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Opposition didn't exhaust local avenues, says HRC

Opposition didn't exhaust local avenues, says HRC
By Moses Kuwema
Wed 06 Mar. 2013, 13:59 CAT

THE Human Rights Commission has urged the government to dialogue with opposition groups that have raised human rights questions and have sought the Commonwealth's intervention. In a statement yesterday, commission chairperson Pixie Yangailo stated that the call to a national dialogue must be done now.

She stated that it was common practice that any matter pertaining to human rights violations to be addressed and positively tackled by international and regional bodies including the United Nations and the Commonwealth, it must first be addressed by all possible legal and other recourses at national level.

She stated that it was clear the opposition leaders (MMD's Nevers Mumba, UPND's Hakainde Hichilema, ULP's Sakwiba Sikota and others) did not exhaust local avenues before going to submit a dossier to the Commonwealth.

Yangailo stated that from a human rights point of view, there was "absolutely nothing wrong with people, irrespective of their nationalities or political affiliations, addressing press conferences in foreign countries to draw attention to what they may perceive as violations of human rights of nationals by their sitting government."

Yangailo, however, stated that the commission was "uncomfortable" with the call to suspend Zambia from the Commonwealth and impose sanctions on her.

"Experience has shown elsewhere that the targeted politicians do not suffer when sanctions are imposed on a country.

The brunt of the sanctions is fully borne instead by the innocent majority people in the affected country who have little influence on the political direction of the country once they have elected a government into office. As such, the Human Rights Commission totally disagrees with this call as it might lead to more rights being denied to the common people of Zambia," she stated.

Yangailo stated that in the Human Rights Commission's view, complaints about human rights violations might be "justifiable in certain instances".

"Lately, Zambia has indeed experienced suppression of some of the fundamental rights and freedoms, and in the greater majority of instances, this has been directed at prominent politicians and selected political parties which, it may be speculated, are seen as the major threat to the ruling Patriotic Front."

Yangailo stated that what concerned the commission now was that the government had not been seen to take public steps to "address these concerns" being brought forward by its own people.

She stated that the commission expected the government to lead the way by sitting down with the various political parties and dialogue on concerns raised.

"Lack of genuine dialogue between the government and opposition political parties can easily lead to desperation and exasperation on the part of those that may feel not to be part of the country's democratic process and thus seeking foreign intervention in frustration," she stated.

"Consequently, as a Commission, in our capacity as a constitutionally established national human rights watchdog, we now earnestly and urgently call upon our government, to initiate genuine dialogue with all political parties that have concerns regarding the running of the affairs of our country. After all, that is what is expected of a listening government."

Yangailo stated the fact that matters had gone far to involve the international community should not be an impediment to local dialogue.

Yangailo stated that deliberate effort to commence dialogue among all concerned parties with honest intentions was most appropriate at this point.

She noted that other segments of the Zambian society, including the the three church mother bodies, Law Association of Zambia, NGOs and individuals have raised concerns on human rights issues with the government.

"The Catholic Bishops recently issued a Pastoral Letter which also touched on violations of human rights in our country. All these various segments of our country cannot be speaking from without. These developments suggest that something may have seriously gone wrong in our country and this is what our government must rise to and address."

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