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Zambia election ‘Peace Pledge’ raises bar for other Commonwealth countries holding elections, says Secretary-General

14 July 2021

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland has commended the signing of an official peace pact in Lusaka, ahead of the 12th August polls.

Zambia’s political candidates today sign a pledge to commit to the upcoming general elections being peaceful.

In a keynote address delivered virtually, the Commonwealth Secretary-General said: “The promotion of peace is the shared responsibility of all stakeholders in Zambia’s democracy.”

She emphasised the symbolism of leaders convening together signing a pact, and being seen by their followers speaking peace and placing the nation ahead of their personal ambition.

“It is a leader’s duty to educate followers and supporters in order to prevent militancy, violence and civil strife,” she said.

“Today’s signing ceremony is truly an achievement to be admired and celebrated – and one which we would hope to see encouraged and emulated in the wider Commonwealth family.

“Zambia is, once again, a leader in fostering peace, unity and socio-political cohesion.”

Presidential candidates and chairpersons of political parties, including representatives of the two main contenders - incumbent Edgar Lungu and  opposition candidate Hakainde Hichilema - have agreed to an 18 point commitment, one of which is a pledge to “Ensuring peace and non-violence at all levels in the electoral cycle and in particular before, during and after the 2021 General Elections and all other By-elections, by actively working to create an environment conducive for the holding of peaceful elections.”

The Peace Pledge also stated that all signatories shall: “Take all proactive measures to prevent further electoral violence before, during and after the 2021 general elections, respecting campaign schedules, the campaign material of other parties and promoting peace on all campaign trails…..Refrain from making public statements, speeches, pronouncements, or declarations that have the capacity to incite any form of violence before, during and after the 2021 general election.”

The Peace Pledge, with the Support of the Commonwealth Secretariat and United Nations, is an initiative of the Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue and the Church Mother Bodies, together with strategic organisations like the Law Association of Zambia, the Human Rights Commission, the Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council, the Zambia Federation of Disability Organisations, the Zambia Police Service, the Media Institute for Southern Africa, the National Youth Development Council and Transparency International.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General thanked Zambia’s political leaders and co-conveners of the Peace Pledge for their commitment to a peaceful Zambia.

She said: “Elections should be an opportunity to engage in political debate over issues and perspectives and not a platform for trading insults and blows. For democracy to flourish, it is imperative that political parties and institutions embrace transparency, accountability, and respect for the rule of law.”

Read the full speech (PDF)