Elections in Zambia and Africa’s unsung heroes…
In Zambia covering elections last week.
It was truly encouraging to see Zambia pull together and come through a difficult election period. For a couple of days though it was touch and go whether the country would spill into serious nationwide violence. The poll results were delayed for a couple of days after Presidential and Parliamentary elections on Tuesday 20th September amid rumours that the incumbent Government was desperately trying to influence the ECZ (Electoral Commission of Zambia) to rig results in their favour.
Zambians though on the street were determined not to let this happen and the normally peaceful nation – something that all Zambians hold dear – were threatening to take their grievances to the streets in what would have been a serious escalation.
I was sure for a day that the situation would get worse having seen a similar situation before in Kenya in 2007. It had been widely claimed that the Electoral Commission of Kenya back then waited for all polling results to come in from the Opposition strongholds around the country and then released rigged results from the Government strongholds making sure to add the necessary votes required to push the Government into the lead. In some constituencies there were more votes than people. The consequences of doing this are of course well documented: In the post-election violence that followed almost 2000 Kenyans died and close to 250,000 were displaced.
It seemed to be heading the same way in Zambia too but great credit must go to the ECZ’s head – Justice Irene Mambilima. There were calls for her to resign in the lead up to the elections – mainly from the Government supporters – and it is clear why. She stood strong and resisted all the untold pressure on her to get involved in the highly partisan political atmosphere in the country and after 2 days of delay – she finally announced the results in favour of the Opposition that in the end won the poll by a very clear margin.
In preserving Zambian’s democratic rights – she definitely almost single-handedly prevented a bloodbath in Zambia. It is people like her who are quietly and surely changing Africa and allowing democracy to breathe new life into the political landscape of the Continent. For that – she must surely be one of Africa’s (many) unsung heroes….