Commonwealth to send an Election Observer Mission

Commonwealth Deputy Secretary General (political and Human Rights) Dr. Josephine Ojiambo has said the Commonwealth Secretariat is ready to send an Election Observer Mission team to observe the August elections and experts to assist in strengthening the capacity of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) as requested by the Zambian Government.

And Dr. Ojiambo said that the Commonwealth Secretariat was following with keen interest President Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s leadership role in women empowerment and was happy with Zambia’s leadership in eliminating Child marriages.

During a meeting when she paid a courtesy call on Her Honour the Vice President of the Republic of Zambia, Mrs Inonge Wina in London last month, Dr. Ojiambo recalled the meeting between the then Secretary General of the Commonwealth Kamalesh Sharma and President Lungu on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 70) where the President requested the active participation of the Commonwealth in complementing government efforts in the Constitution Reform process, strengthening of the electoral system and support to the women empowerment agenda.

 In the meeting, the Deputy Secretary-General acknowledged receipt of a letter from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Harry Kalaba, extending an invitation to the Commonwealth Secretariat to send an Election Observer Team for the August 11 elections.

Dr. Ojiambo said that the Commonwealth Secretariat was in the process of putting together a pre-election assessment visit to Zambia that will be followed by an election observer mission adding that the Commonwealth Secretariat was ready to help strengthen the capacity of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) in order to ensure broader participation and dialogue among stakeholders.

And Mrs Wina said Zambia had maintained a reputable record of peaceful and democratic elections and its electoral system was among a few truly independent systems on the continent. She assured the Commonwealth that the August 11 general election will be free and fair, saying a credible and independent electoral system was firmly in place.

In the meeting, the Vice President said that the Zambian Government considered international elections observers as key to ensuring a credible electoral outcome that would be representative of the will of the people.

She informed Dr. Ojiambo that the preparations of the elections were progressing well and stated that any assistance offered to strengthen the ECZ was welcome adding that the Zambian Government was committed to ensuring transparency in the conduct of the elections and that the ECZ operated independently without any interference from Government.

“Sometimes when you hear people talk negative about Zambia’s electoral system you wonder which Zambia they are referring to. All political stakeholders, political parties, NGOs, the civil societies, security wings and all interest groups are fully involved at every stage of the electoral system. All political parties have representation in all stages of the electoral system starting from the polling station, counting of results, verification and signing of results before they are transmitted. We are calling on the Commonwealth to help bring all political stakeholders together and provide an opportunity for training and dialogue to gain consensus on electoral issues,” she said.

She said people casting doubt over the electoral system should be dismissed with the contempt they deserve.

And the Vice President further informed the Commonwealth Secretariat that President Lungu had demonstrated political will towards empowering women to fully participate in elections. She said that President Lungu had directed that at least 40 percent of people aspiring to be leaders at Local Government and Parliamentary level should be women.

“The President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu is a champion of women’s rights and he is committed to have 40 percent of parliamentary seats being held by women. The Zambian Government has taken the initiative to work with the civil societies, traditional leaders and other stakeholders to raise awareness about women and girls-women’s rights and the response is encouraging. We are inviting the commonwealth Secretariat to partner with the Government of the Republic of Zambia in the fight against vices such as early and forced marriages and gender-based violence, among other issues affecting women,” she said.

LONDON, Sunday 8th May, 2016.

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