US issues veiled sanctions threat ahead of Zambian elections

The United States has issued a veiled threat to impose “visa restrictions, travel bans and financial sanctions” on any individuals…

The United States has issued a veiled threat to impose “visa restrictions, travel bans and financial sanctions” on any individuals and political leaders who will violate the rights of Zambians to freely exercise their rights to vote in general elections set for Thursday.The Chargé d’Affaires at the US embassy in Lusaka, David Young said his government has over the years supported the Electoral Commission of Zambia and civil society organisations to build democratic institutions. 

“When these efforts to support democracy do not work and fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms are violated, the United States can and does apply visa restrictions, travel bans and financial sanctions,” Young said in a vaguely worded threat on Monday.  

He expressed concern at reports of violence and intimidation ahead of the August 12 polls in which Zambians are due to elect a president, members of the national assembly and local government councillors.

The reports have cited alleged violence involving supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) and the main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND).

“I want to make it clear that there should be no intimidation of voters by cadre groups from either party,” Young said, urging the police and military to “apply the law equally and humanely in defense of the safety and fundamental right of Zambian citizens to vote and participate in the democratic process, including the fundamental freedoms of speech and assembly.”  

The threat comes days after President Edgar Lungu President Lungu allegedly threatened to arrest UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema after the election.

“We will hold accountable any individuals who promote violence, undermine electoral processes, engage in fraudulent or corrupt behaviour, or otherwise violate democratic rights and the foundations of free elections,” Young said. 

The elections are expected to be a two-horse race between the PF of President Lungu and the UPND led by Hichilema, a businessman popularly known as “HH” who narrowly lost to Lungu the last poll held in 2016.

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