You are here:AfriGAP » Resources » Lessons in effective citizen activism: the anti-third term campaign in Zambia
Lessons in effective citizen activism: the anti-third term campaign in Zambia
Chomba Chella & Simon Kabanda
Source of the information:
In 2001, Zambian President Frederick Chiluba tried to change the country’s constitution to allow him to run for a third term. However, a civil society-led campaign forced the President to abandon the plan.
This paper details how the campaign was organised and why it proved effective. Activists from a range of civil society groups – among them lawyers, religious leaders, women’s organisations, youth groups, human rights activists and trade unionists – formed an umbrella body, the Oasis Forum,and were joined by individual members of parliament (MPs) who opposed proposed changes to the constitution.
Groups mobilised their own constituencies: clerics organised prayer meetings; MPs lobbied colleagues and wrote articles for the independent press; lawyers and others staged debates and discussions. Popular campaigns targeted ordinary citizens, who wore green ribbons to show their disapproval of a change in the constitution, or blew whistles or honked hooters at specified times.
The authors conclude that Chiluba’s capitulation was a triumph for civil society. It demonstrated what could be achieved by a vigilant community which speaks with one voice on crucial issues. Politicians and government officials alone cannot ensure good governance, democracy and respect for human rights. Civil society needs to watch, encourage and cajole them constantly.
The authors asserts that this experience offers valuable tips for CSOs contemplating involvement in processes such as the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). These include:
Insist that NGOs make up the majority of the APRM National Governing Council (NGC) that drives the national process.
Lobby politicians to take the APRM seriously and ensure that all the country’s problems are candidly highlighted.
Allow for country-wide consultations by providing platforms for public engagement, dialogue and debate and the use of media.
Mobilise other NGOs to participate and to make written submissions on their key issues.
Get the media interested, publicising principles and highlighting key governance issues, not just set-piece events.