Bishops in Zambia Decry Shrinking Democracy for Leaders Opposed to Government

Logo of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB). Credit: ZCCB

Politicians who are opposed to the government in Zambia are being denied their freedom of expression, Catholic Bishops in the southern African country have said, and decried what they term as a shrinking democracy in the country.

In a statement shared with ACI Africa, members of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) express concern that the government is also violating the freedom of assembly of politicians in the who are not aligned with the government in the country.

“Human rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are arbitrarily being trampled on, especially against those considered to hold dissenting political views or persons belonging to opposition political parties,” the Bishops say.

Similar violation is also being meted against members of the press in Zambia, the Bishops lament, saying, “Intimidation of media houses by state institutions, based on the guests they invite, and the content discussed on their platforms curtails both media freedom and free speech.”

Trampling on the freedom of expression in Zambia, the members of ZCCB say, is sending an indirect message to media houses to stay away from discussing uncomfortable but very important topics of public interest and to shun or marginalize certain voices whose views may be deemed unfavorable to those in authority.


 The Catholic Bishops also express concern that opposition parties in the country have also been denied the right to peaceful assembly.  

They note that on several occasions, the police have denied opposition parties the opportunity to assemble false grounds of a lack of adequate manpower and unspecified security concerns.

 “There is also a growing selective application of the rule of law,” the Bishops say, and explain, “For instance, it has become a tradition for the police to arrest members of the opposition in a violent manner, keep them in detention longer than necessary, and never take their cases to court, long after being finally released on bond.” 

ZCCB members say they are “abhorred by the way politicians in general and those in government in particular respond to public criticism.”

They express regret that politicians have resorted to using abusive language, intimidation, name-calling, and rogue websites to maliciously scandalize critics and political opponents. 

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“We don't expect this uncalled-for behavior from leaders in a democratic society where divergent views must be accommodated,” they say, and add, “It is a mark of leadership to embrace criticism, especially of a crucial and constructive kind.”

“The public has the right to provide feedback on government performance and activities. The responsibility of public officials is to harness this feedback, regardless of the medium through which it is conveyed. We urge politicians to use respectful language in public discourse and be tolerant of divergent views,” the Bishops say. 

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.