Zambia:The President Should Rescind the Decision to Deploy Defence Forces By Henry Kyambalesa

  • Our brother President Edgar C. Lungu needs to promptly rescind his decision todeploy defence forces to quell political violence expected to be perpetrated byunruly supporters of citizens vying for elective positions in government ahead ofthe August 12, 2021 general elections. He should do so for two important reasons.
  • Firstly, the gallant members of our defence forces are not trained to observe therights and freedoms of the citizenry guaranteed by the Republican constitutionand are, therefore, likely to violate such rights and freedoms. As such, thePresident will do well to guard himself against being indicted by the InternationalCourt of Justice for any atrocities which are likely to be committed by somemembers of the defence forces.Secondly, the deployment of our beloved country’s defence forces to deal withdomestic issues and matters other than public emergencies and national disastersmay not be constitutional. The Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) No. 2 of2016 stipulates the following as the Constitutional functions of the DefenceForces and the Zambia Police Service:Article 192: (2) The Defence Force shall—(a) preserve and defend the sovereignty andterritorial integrity of the Republic; (b) foster harmony and understandingbetween the Zambia Army, Zambia Air Force, an auxiliary unit and members ofsociety; and (c) cooperate with State organs and State institutions in times ofpublic emergencies and national disasters.Article 193: (2) The Zambia Police Service shall—(a) protect life and property; (b) preservepeace and maintain law and order; (c) ensure the security of the people; (d) detectand prevent crime; (e) uphold the Bill of Rights; (f) foster and promote goodrelationships with the Defence Force, other national security services andmembers of society; and (g) perform other functions as prescribed.Article 195:(1) The President may deploy personnel of the Defence Force outside theRepublic.
  • 2(2) Where the President deploys personnel of the Defence Force outside theRepublic, the President shall, as soon as is reasonably practicable, inform theNational Assembly of the deployment. (Note: The National Assembly iscurrently dissolved.)There are also less-important reasons why the President needs to rescind hisdecision to deploy the military to perform non-traditional functions of preservingpeace and maintaining law and order. Firstly, the presence of military personneland cordons on streets is potentially going to worsen voter turn-out because timidvoters will most likely avoid criss-crossing military personnel and cordons to goto polling stations.Secondly, it is going to require a great deal of tact to send the military back to thebarracks after the elections, unless it is the President’s intention to stay in powerwith the help of defence forces in the event that he loses the forthcomingpresidential election.Thirdly, engagement of the military to quell political violence before and duringelections is likely to be interpreted by some military officers as an invitation tosupport the Commander-in-Chief and his political party against their politicalopponents—a situation which can easily get out of hand and culminate inunimaginable tragedy.However, the President has unquestionable authority to deploy the ZambiaParamilitary Battalion, an auxiliary unit of the Zambia Police Service, to reinforcethe work of the Zambia Police Service in maintaining law and order. There is agood reason why we have the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry ofDefence as separate cabinet-level units of the Executive branch of government.
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