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Catholic Bishops in Zambia Congratulate President-elect, Encourage Peaceful Power Transfer

Zambia's newly elected president, Hakainde Hichilema. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Catholic Bishops in Zambia have congratulated the country’s President-elect following the August 12 general elections.

In their Monday, August 16 collective message, members of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) call for a peaceful transfer of power as the Southern African nation transits “from one government to another.”

“The General Elections for the year 2021 are now over. We have the final official results announced by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ). Mr. Hakainde Hichilema is the President Elect of our country,” ZCCB members say.

The Catholic Bishops congratulate Mr. Hichilema “for his victory, a victory in which all the Zambian people share, since it is a victory for democracy.”

ZCCB members call on those who triumphed during the general elections that had Mayors, Council chairpersons, ward Councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs) elected alongside the country’s President “to celebrate your victories in a responsible and inclusive manner that will not be a source of abrogating the peaceful atmosphere in which we carried out our elections.”

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“Those who have lost the elections should not be meant to feel they are aliens in their own country but should be given hope for the next time. For indeed there is always the next time in our democratic dispensation,” Catholic Bishops in Zambia add.

On August 16, ECZ declared opposition leader, Mr. Hichilema the winner of the country's presidential election, beating the incumbent, Edgar Lungu, by more than a million votes, BBC News reported.

Statistics from ECZ indicate that Mr. Hichilema garnered 2,810,777 votes compared to Mr. Lungu's 1,814,201 votes out of the seven million registered voters.

Following the proclamation of the results, President-elect Hichilema has been quoted as pledging “to be president of all Zambians” whether they voted for him or not.

In their August 16 statement, Catholic Bishops in Zambia “thank the out-going President, Mr. Edgar C. Lungu, for having facilitated the conduct of the elections and bringing the processes to their conclusion even during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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“He has done his share. It is time for another to carry on. We wish him well and God's blessings,” they add.

ZCCB members also express their appreciation to Zambians for “demonstrating that as a nation we can change governments without destroying our peace and unity that bind us.”

“As we transit from one government to another, we wish to call upon all Zambians and people of good will to exercise maximum restraint to all forms of provocation and to remain peaceful with self, with others and with God,” the Catholic Bishops say, and add, “This is the only way we can live in peace and harmony with one another.”

They continue, “This is the only way we can live in peace and harmony with one another.”

“Our Lord, Jesus Christ, encourages us when he says: If anyone strikes you on one cheek, offer the other also, and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt,” the Bishops say, making reference to the Gospel according to Luke.

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The Zambian outgoing President had since conceded defeat and expressed his commitment to facilitate a peaceful transfer of power.

"I want to thank you the Zambian people for giving me the opportunity to be your president. I will forever cherish and appreciate the authority you vested in me,” Mr. Lungu had been quoted as saying August 16 in a televised national address, and added, “All I ever wanted to do was to serve my country to the best of my abilities. Together with you, we did score in many areas.”

Based on the results announced by ECZ, Mr. Lungu continued, “I will comply with the constitutional provisions for peaceful transitions of power.”

’’I would therefore congratulate my brother the president-elect, his excellency Mr. Hakainde Hichilema for becoming the seventh republican president,” Zambia’s outgoing President said August 16.

In their collective statement, ZCCB members highlight the value of forgiveness among Zambians following the poll saying, “Christianity knows no other effective method than a permanent willingness to forgive and to be reconciled and not to retaliate; to forgive as many times as we can and without measure.”

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Forgiveness, they add, is also “to take the first step and meet one's neighbor in charity - even when it hurts. It means appreciating one another as persons created in the image and likeness of God and to consider each other as brothers and sisters rather than obstacles to be overcome.”

They go on to express their appreciation for the “professional role our Electoral Commission of Zambia and the men and women in uniform have played in the elections. Yes, there were some lapses here and there, but the overall picture is that of a professional job well done.”

“Our democracy is really maturing where we allow every Zambian to have a chance to participate in the governance of the country without fear and intimidation from anyone,” Catholic Bishops in Zambia further say.

They also express their gratitude to members of the international community “for being our neighbors who care and are ready to be in solidarity with us. We know you shared our anxieties, but we also know you are now sharing in our peace of mind that the elections have come and gone without a breakdown in peace.”

“To us all may God reign in our hearts, that we may be truly reconciled and live with one another in peace and harmony for the well-being of all of us who start our journey with a new government as a pilgrim people whose God is always there for us and with us,” ZCCB members say in their August 16 collective statement.