THE Commonwealth brokered process of dialogue between President Edgar Lungu and UPND leader, Hakainde Hichilema should go beyond the two political leaders in fostering genuine reconciliation.

It cannot be denied that the current political malaise is as a result of events of last year’s tightly contested general elections in which the Patriotic Front (PF) emerged victorious, which outcome the largest opposition party, the UPND disputed.

As per procedure, the UPND filed an election petition but it lapsed as due to the constitutional stipulation of 14 days within which it should have been heard.

However, it is public knowledge that despite the UPND following the laid down procedure and the outcome of the election petition to have been what it is, the party decided to take a stance not to recognize President Edgar Lungu as legitimately elected.

It is this position the UPND adopted that has left the nation deeply divided politically.

On many occasions, its leadership publicly announced that it does not accept the outcome of the August 2016 election, hence would not recognize President Lungu as duly elected.

We think this scenario has created a politically charged atmosphere in which highly incensed political party cadres are easily manipulated in the mistaken belief of fighting for a just cause when in fact not, thereby resorting to violent conduct.

The despicable events where unscrupulous individuals perpetrate acts of economic sabotage and arson do not require one to be a political scientist to decipher that such are politically orchestrated.

For this reason, concerted efforts from various civil society organisations, faith-based organisations and international dignitaries in calling for dialogue between President Lungu and the UPND leaders to defuse political tension must be appreciated.

Finding a common ground to end this political impasse for the general good of the country.

On one hand, we note that President Lungu has always shown willingness to dialogue with the opposition political leaders, particularly Mr Hichilema, provided the agenda is well spelt out as there can never be fruitful engagement if the purpose and motivation is not known.

What is the agenda for dialogue? Does Mr Hichilema accept the outcome of the 2016 election?

Therefore, attempts by the Church to initiate genuine dialogue between the two political leaders a couple of weeks ago was an indication that sooner than later the reconciliation process to restoring peace and political stability would be achieved.

And the recent impromptu visit by former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo to appeal to both President Lungu and Mr Hichilema on the need to hold dialogue and focus on future elections as a way to allay this political aura shows the Church initiated process needs such backing.

Revelations by the Commonwealth secretary-general, Ms Patricia Scotland, who is also former British Attorney General, following a series of private talks she held with both President Lungu and Mr Hichilema that the two parties have agreed to move forward from the issues of the 2016 elections for the sake of peace and stability is
commendable.

It is unfortunate that the trend of African opposition leaders not easily conceding defeat in an election is becoming the order of the day.

The events happening in the aftermath of Kenya’s election on Tuesday bear a semblance to our own experience.

However, we commend the stance taken by Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to verify results from the polling stations and totaling centers to allay fears of possible cheating in the process.

It is encouraging that finally both Mr Hichilema and President Lungu have also agreed to take necessary steps to create an environment that is conducive to peaceful resolution by generating greater and deeper public confidence in their commitment to a constructive, progressive and responsible engagement.

We urge both Mr Hichilema and President Lungu to appeal to their followers to exercise maximum restraint when provoked so that the process of dialogue and reconciliation transcends them.

The roadmap should be targeted to enhance national unity for the country to heal from the scars of last year’s general election.

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