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Joint Communique on the Failed Coup

 

Joint Communique on the Failed Coup
 
As released by the Christian Council of Zambia, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia and the Zambia Episcopal Conference
 
14 January 1998
 
 

The political situation continued to worsen in the Country following the contentious elections in 1996. A coup attempt failed after which the Government declared a state of emergency. Using the powers of under the state of emergency a large number of people were arrested and detained.

In this context, the Church leaders appealed to the Government to ensure that the state of emergency was not used for political ends. They called for speedy trials of the accused to ensure that justice was done instead of prolonged detentions. They decried torture as a means of extracting evidence from suspects. They called for justice to be dispensed with regard to natural justice

    We, as representatives of the Church in Zambia, met at the Christian Council of Zambia (CCZ) offices in Lusaka to review the current political situation in Zambia. Our consultation comes in the wake of the failed coup attempt of October 28, 1997, and in the wake of other related political intrigues. To that end, we are grateful to God Almighty for the peace we have continued to enjoy in this Nation. Thus, grounding ourselves in the mercies of the Almighty God, we wish to make our voice heard on a number of pertinent issues in keeping with our moral obligation to the people of God who cut across all political divides. Following, then, is our joint communiqué:

    The Attempted Coup

  1. We reiterate our unreserved condemnation of the attempted coup. Coups solve no problem. Rather, they are a source of most of our problems in Africa; they are a recipe for anarchy. As a Church, therefore, our thanks will always go to God for saving this Nation from a possible military dictatorship. Examples of such anarchy abound throughout Africa. Coups have continued to disturb the peace, freedom and unity of the African Nation-State. This cannot be tolerated in a land, which has known peace for decades on end. God's gift of peace must be cherished at all costs.

    The State of Emergency

  2. We are on record as having endorsed the declaration of the state of emergency with reservations. In the same breath, we would like to caution the Government and the State functionaries not to use emergency powers to settle old scores. Such behaviour will certainly set a very bad precedent. The Church, as a moral voice in the Nation, strongly feels that this state of emergency must not be unnecessarily prolonged. With this in mind, we strongly appeal to the current session of Parliament to critically review the state of emergency. The question that must be asked is: Is the state of emergency serving the purpose for which it was declared? We believe that it behoves this current session of Parliament to uphold the democratic principles of good governance.

    Detentions and Arrests

  3. We note with regret that there have been prolonged detentions. The Permanent Human Rights Commission further corroborates this finding. Such prolonged detentions may potentially result in uncalled-for victimization of innocent people. The very act of instituting an arrest assumes possession by the arresting officer of fairly reasonable apriori evidence. If that had been the case, then the period of investigations should have been considerably shortened. As things stand, we are very concerned that it is taking too long for the investigating authorities to bring suspects to court on formal charges. As the old adage goes: Justice delayed is justice denied!

    Torture

  4. Instances of torture have been reported both by the media and the Human Rights Commission. The Church strongly condemns such evil practices. We therefore appeal to the investigators in the strongest of terms to avoid torture in dealing with suspects. We believe that there are many humane and professional means of extracting information from suspects. The rule-of-thumb must be respect for suspects' basic human rights and dignity.

    Legal Process

  5. We are privy to the difficult and complicated situation our judges are in today. This notwithstanding, we have confidence in the judiciary of our Nation to dispense justice in accordance with their professional regard for natural justice. Our fervent prayers lie with our judges to execute their judgments expeditiously and fairly. In the same breath, we urge all other officers of the Law to do their bidding more speedily for the sake of proper justice and fair play.

    Inter-Party Talks

  6. We note again that the inter-party talks initiated late last year are absolutely crucial to the democratic process of our Nation. Our earnest prayer is that the second phase of this political dialogue will take place as soon as possible. We are particularly concerned that these talks must be inclusive enough to enable all interested political players to fully participate. With this in mind, and while we recognize that the ultimate success of the talks lies with all the political parties, we would like to specially appeal to the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) to take the lead in creating a conducive atmosphere which will ensure greater inclusiveness and participation.

    Conclusion

  7. The issues we have raised and commented on are undeniably complex. We cannot expect them to be resolved by human action alone. We thus conclude by urging all Christians in our Churches to pray for God's continued guidance and direction as our Nation goes through this difficult period.