U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Zambia
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Zambia, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1f8.html [accessed 1 December 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
ZAMBIAZambia is a republic governed by a president, a unicameral national assembly, and a constitutionally independent judiciary. After two decades of one-party rule, free and fair multiparty elections in November 1991 resulted in the victory of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) and the election of President Frederick J.T. Chiluba, a former trade unionist. In the November 1996 elections, President Chiluba was reelected, and his party won 131 of 150 seats in the National Assembly. Constitutional amendments enacted in May 1996 had disqualified former President Kenneth Kaunda, the main opposition leader, from seeking the presidency. The MDD's use of government resources, including the state-owned media, put the fairness of the elections into question, although, despite some voting irregularities, there was no evidence of substantial or widespread vote-rigging or vote-counting fraud. The Government generally respected the independence of the judiciary. Early in the morning of October 28, an army captain took control of the national radio station and announced a coup. By 10 a.m., government troops had regained control of the facilities, the captain and his allies were arrested, and the coup attempt was over. Several days later, the President proposed and Parliament approved legislation establishing a 90-day State of Emergency, which was scheduled to end in February 1998, if not extended. The State of Emergency allowed the Government to detain suspects for 28 days without charge. By year's end, the Government had detained 86 persons, including former President Kenneth Kaunda. The police, divided into regular and paramilitary units operating under the Ministry of Home Affairs, have primary responsibility for maintaining law and order. They are highly politicized. The Zambia Intelligence Security Service, under the office of the President, is responsible for intelligence and internal security. Police continued to commit numerous, and at times serious, human rights abuses. Throughout the year, the Government continued its free market economic reform program, halving the inflation rate, maintaining the budget under control, and pressing forward with the privatization of parastatal companies. The revenue authority contributed to the good budgetary results through increased collections, despite cutting tax rates at midyear. Erratic rainfall and delayed delivery of fertilizer contributed to a below average 1996-97 maize crop, the staple food of most citizens. Agreement in principle was reached with international mining companies to privatize the major elements of the copper industry, a move to stem generally declining production and continued losses. Nonmetals exports continued growing strongly, increasing diversification and jobs and making up for reduced foreign exchange earnings from copper. The Government took steps to address some human rights problems, but serious abuses continued in several areas. The police committed extrajudicial killings and beat and otherwise abused criminal suspects and detainees. Harsh prison conditions deteriorated further, posing an increased threat to the health and lives of inmates. Arbitrary arrests, prolonged detention, and long delays in trials remain problems. Police infringed on citizens' privacy rights. Police authorities continued steps to address police brutality, including community-based policing methods, human rights training in the curriculum of the police training college, and human rights seminars for midlevel and senior officers. However, a lack of professionalism and discipline in the police force remains a serious problem. The Government persisted in attempts to limit freedom of the press and continued to control two of the country's three daily newspapers, contrary to its 1991 promises to privatize government-owned mass media. The Government restricted citizens' right of peaceful assembly and association. Citizens' right to change their government also was restricted in 1996. In May the Government established the autonomous Zambian Human Rights Commission (ZHRC). Despite initial doubts about its effectiveness, the Commission obtained access to the coup detainees and exposed the fact that seven of them were tortured. The Commission also took effective steps to press the Government to release a number of prisoners. Women continued to experience discrimination in both law and fact. Wife beating, rape, and denial of widows' inheritance rights remained widespread. Discrimination against people with disabilities is a problem. Child labor exists in rural subsistence occupations and in some urban occupations.