Zambia’s draft constitution, released April 30 by the Technical Committee on Drafting the Zambian Constitution, is a notable improvement over the previous document and represents a significant opportunity to make a positive impact on democratic governance in the country. Freedom House urges the Zambian government, led by President Michael Sata, to uphold its commitment to the drafting process by adequately funding provincial and national public consultations and by establishing a clear timeline for the referendum.
The document has been given 40 days for public discussion. There remain lingering concerns about a number of issues, including widespread uncertainty about how public consultations will be funded and what portions of the constitution will actually be included in the referendum. The referendum timeline also remains in question, as does the amount of voter registration work that needs to take place in order for an adequate number of citizens to participate in this vital democratic exercise.
Zambia’s new leaders must act quickly to capitalize on the democratic progress the country has made since the peaceful transition of power following elections in September 2011. This progress can be solidified by guaranteeing that the new draft constitution is subject to both a meaningful and time-bound process that accurately reflects the views of its citizenry.