—The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has implored youths to refrain from acts of violence and refuse to be used to disrupt peace in the run up to the April 23 Kapiri Mposhi parliamentary by-elections.
And youths from political parties, civil society organizations and the Church have pledged to remain peaceful and sensitize other young people on the importance of participating in the electoral process in the run-up to the by-elections in Kapiri Mposhi.
ECZ Commissioner, Minerva Tembo, said youths should refuse to be used as agents to perpetrate violence by political parties and candidates participating in the by-elections.
Commissioner Tembo noted that youths are relevant to the conduct of successful and peaceful elections.
Speaking when she officially opened a youth conference against electoral malpractice and violence themed “Youth Involvement in the electoral process” in Kapiri Mposhi yesterday, commissioner Tembo said young people make up a pool of future leaders that would occupy leadership positions with the responsibility of steering socio-economic development of our country.
“Youths make up a pool of people who will someday occupy leadership positions with the responsibility of steering social, political and economic development of our country”, Mrs Tembo said.
She noted that the youths make up over 50 per cent of the total of registered voters in the country and hence they are relevant to the conduct of successful elections.
“There are over 5.1 million registered voters in Zambia out of which youths make up 54 per cent on the current voters’ register and as such youths are relevant to the conduct of successful elections,” Mrs Tembo said.
The youth conference, which drew youth participation from political parties, churches and civil society organizations in Kapiri Mposhi, was organized to familiarize youths on the electoral process and discourage them from being used to perpetrate violence in the fourth-coming elections.
Commissioner Tembo stated that through the conference the ECZ was committed to raising a knowledgeable and enthusiastic young people who can enlighten the electorates and fellow young people about the operations of the Commission and the electoral process in general.
She said the Commission would like to increase the number of young people who will register to vote in future elections as well as turn out to cast their ballot.
“In the next few days we will be conducting the Kapiri Mposhi parliamentary by-elections apart from the Lukulu elections and various local government elections at ward levels… I want to appeal to all youths to exercise maximum restraint to acts of violence and behaviour which are likely to lead to anarchy”, Mrs Tembo said.
Commissioner Tembo said the ECZ remains committed to ensuring that members of the public contribute effectively to the electoral process, adding that the commission was open to sharing information on the electoral processes.
And ECZ Director, Priscilla Isaacs, has called on politicians not use youths as tools of violence.
Ms Isaacs said youths should refuse to be abused but should take a leading role in sensitizing members of the community against electoral malpractices and political violence.
“Politics of today seems to be of intimidation and violence. Youths should be able to guide the young people in the electoral process. Youths need to be enlightened about the consequences of political violence…. We need to look at each other as brothers and sisters and not as enemies,” Ms Isaacs said.
Meanwhile, youths in Kapiri Mposhi have pledged to be non-violent in the run up to the April 23 parliamentary by-elections.
The youths made the pledge during the ECZ-organized youth conference at Namakuba Inn in Kapiri Mposhi yesterday.