LETTER TO THE CHAIRMAN OF THE AFRICAN UNION ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL HEISTS IN ZAMBIA
July 10, 2020
His Excellency President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, Chairman of the African Union
I write to keep you in the loop on issues that have dominated the Republic of Zambia in the last months and that have the potential to destabilise the peace and unity of this country.
I also write to remind you of your solemn duty to the elegant people of Africa.
Your Excellency, the Zambian President Edgar Lungu, the country’s sixth elected leader, currently serving his second five-year term, is supposed to leave office in 2021 under the rules of the Zambian Constitution.
He is not eligible to stand for election again because he has already been elected and held the office of President of Zambia twice.
Your Excellency, that is what the law says.
His third-term bid is causing significant deterioration in the stability of Zambia.
On behalf of an organisation mandated, among other things, to foster democracy, I am asking you to engage Lungu urgently on his third-term bid phenomenon.
As things stand, the organisation you are chairing is drawing criticism from the people of Zambia that it is failing to serve the interests of the masses.
Lungu’s attempts to cling to power presents the African Union with a prime opportunity to save itself from the many times it has let down the people of Africa when they have cried for help to make their leaders uphold the rule of law.
It is your duty, Your Excellency, to deter constitutional coups and to support the democratic alternation of power.
Your silence on third-termism is deafening, to say the least.
Your organisation is supposed to be at the forefront in standing up against unconstitutional alterations and holding onto power, as first pronounced in the Lome Declaration, formalised in the African Union Constitutive Act, and further elaborated upon in the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
Your Excellency, I am a University lecturer but I do not need to lecture you on the legal and policy instruments of the African Union that deal with undemocratic and unconstitutional tendencies of governance.
The instruments of the African Union give you the mandate to take action to counter coups and other types of unlawful and undemocratic power heists.
The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance also prohibits any amendment or revision of the Constitution or legal instruments because that is an infringement of the principles of democratic change of government.
To the disappointment of many Zambians, the African Union is not invoking this prohibition, despite being aware of Lungu’s open bid for a third-term.
Your Excellency, you have remained largely silent in the face of the constitutional coup happening in Zambia under your nose.
May I remind you that what Lungu is doing here is against the African Union Charter, as it defiles Constitutionalism, rule of law, good governance, democracy, and the Charter on Values and Principles of peace and unity.
He is pushing Bill 10 down the throats of people to make amendments to the Constitution in order to avoid term limits and accountability.
What is further disappointing is that, while the African Union calls us to follow established procedures for constitutional amendment and to ensure full citizen participation in the process, you seem to have opted to engage in quiet diplomacy on the matter.
I am not writing from without because we have seen how the Constitution was raped in many countries including Gambia, Togo, Egypt, and Uganda, where undemocratic constitutional amendments were made to pave the way for selfish leaders to run again until death.
You have not rejected or otherwise condemned the constitutional coups in these countries.
That is my main worry, and the reason I am appealing to the African Union under your leadership to condemn Lungu’s third-term bid and the proposed constitutional amendments through Bill 10.
Your speaking out against Lungu’s political manoeuvres will be well within the African Union framework against unconstitutional and undemocratic leadership tendencies, supported by the Zambian Constitution.
Censuring Lungu is not enough. He must face serious consequences for promoting an agenda likely to destabilise Zambia and the entire African region.
This is the right time for the African Union to move from lip service on constitutionalism, and to address Lungu who is hell bent to alter the Constitution in order to retain power.
Lungu’s effort to undermine constitutionalism and to consolidate his grip on power, even when he has nothing to offer, must be condemned as evil and followed by austere consequences.
Or else, it would seem that the African Union is favouring Lungu, not the Charter on Values and Principles, or the poor masses.
In the past, you have lost many golden opportunities to enforce your own norms.
What Lungu wants to do clearly runs contrary to the spirit of the African Charter and the letter of the Zambian Constitution, but gives you a golden opportunity to call a spade a spade.
Please, call Lungu to an ‘insaka’ and reject Bill 10 and his third-term bid as a constitutional trickery initiative infringing on the principles, and contrary to the established norms of constitutional change.
Your Excellency, stand with the people of Zambia in drawing the line and make it clear that Lungu’s Bill 10 and his third-term bid are not acceptable.
In line with the values of subsidiarity, I also appeal to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to draw on continental normative charters to put pressure on Lungu to drop his third-term bid and his scheme to doctor the Constitution through Bill 10.
A rejection of Lungu’s plans would redeem the African Union of its appalling record of standing on the side-lines as sitting presidents crush the principles of democratic alternation of power and constitutionalism.
Talking to Lungu will also ensure that the increasingly unstable situation in Zambia does not deteriorate further.
It is also high time that the African Union amends the Democracy Charter to prohibit the third-term phenomenon openly.
I look forward to continued dialogue with you and wish you an urgent and successful ‘insaka’ with Lungu.
Sara Imutowana Yeta II (PhD, PhD)
Cc: Office of the President, Zambia
Cc: United Nations