OSISA in Zambia

Zambia’s 2011 elections were a boost for democracy in the country and the region – as the opposition Patriotic Front of Michael Sata swept to power and Rupiah Banda graciously accepted defeat. Sata’s victory and the smooth transition underlined the growing strength of Zambia’s democracy. However, his first year in office has resulted in increasing concerns about his style of leadership – particularly in relation to diplomacy and to his appointment of people from the north to a wide range of powerful positions – and has led many people to remark that you do not get a nickname like ‘King Cobra’ for nothing.

And while Zambia remains stable and peaceful and endowed with substantial natural resources and an abundance of land and water, almost a third of the population still live under the poverty line and the country ranks 150th on the United Nations human development index. However, Zambia has bucked the trend in southern Africa over recent years - showing a greater respect for human rights, good governance and democracy than many of its neighbours in the Southern African Development Community. Indeed, Zambia could meet the Millennium Development Goals of halving the proportion of its people who suffer from hunger, providing universal primary education and halting the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015. It has also reduced maternal and child mortality - although 15 percent of children still die before their 5th birthday.

The 2008 global financial crisis caused a steep fall in price and demand for Zambia's primary export, copper, reducing government revenue and causing significant job losses. However, the price is soaring again on the back of continued demand from China and so Zambia's economy is improving. A number of laws that hinder the advancement of people's rights remain on the statute books, including the Public Order Act. The judicial system is inefficient and politically compromised, and corruption is rife.

Women continue to occupy a low socio-economic status, which is further exacerbated by discriminatory laws. However, the women's movement is a strong and vibrant part of the country's well-developed civil society. In the last five years civil society has been actively engaged in the constitutional review process.

In general the human rights record of Zambia is acceptable. However, there have been in recent years a number of cases of police killings of suspects in detention. The situation in prisons is also cause for concern.


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