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BRINGING THE APRM BACK INTO PICTURE

Dominic Liche Following the tripartite elections in September 2011 and the subsequent swearing-in of leaders at different levels in positions of leadership, the media has been congested with expectations of the people from the newly elected Government. Whilst some of the expectations have been very valid and timely, some other expectations resemble a wishful list of a wishful thinker. Despite the promises made by the party that won the 20 September elections, most of the promises need to be well thought out if they are to meet peoples expectations. In the flood of expectations that could very easily lead to lack of focus by the new Government, especially without careful planning, many governance issues seemed to have been ignored or completely forgotten. Of course, some governance issues such as the fight against corruption, constitution making process, sound public finance management, responsiveness to the needs of the people, have received enormous amount of coverage in the media. But issues such as the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), operationalising the Sixth National Development Plan, practical steps on decentralisation, adherence to the rule of law even in the face of excitement of a new Government, restoration of the true meaning of government (a government for the people, by the people, and not a government of a political party), have not received much attention and could very easily fall through the cracks. PROGRESS SO FAR ON THE APRM Since Zambia acceded to the APRM in 2006, much has been done to make sure that this process truly meets its mandate a voluntary governance self-monitoring mechanism leading to political stability, economic growth, sustainable human development, and a better life for all Zambians. The work done so far has culminated in a Country Self-assessment Report and the National Programme of Action (NaPOA). Zambia could have been peer reviewed at the last African Union (AU) Summit in June/July this year in Equatorial Guinea. But concerns from some sectors of society on doing so in an election year, made Zambia not to be peer reviewed. Instead, work on the APRM is now on hold with the National Governance Council (NGC), which was spearheading the process, dissolved until further notice. Given that most of the selfassessment research by the Technical Research Institutions (TRIs) and validation of this research was done in 2009 and 2010, Zambias APRM process is likely to delay for some time unless positive steps are quickly taken to make sure that the process (the first review) is completed in 2012. WAY FORWARD ON THE APRM Let us look at three very practical ways we can promote this very significant process. First, the national APRM institutions should be re-established. These institutions include the National Governing Council (NGC) and the national APRM Secretariat. Without ignoring the fact that the Governance Secretariat in the Ministry of Justice has been playing the role of the APRM Secretariat, a full time national APRM Secretariat should be established to concentrate on APRM activities and service both the NGC and the general public. With a dual role, the Governance Secretariat did their best to make sure we reach this far on the APRM and their work is commendable. But several times in the process, having dual roles made it difficult to move at an optimal pace in the process because of their other full time role. A full time semi autonomous APRM Secretariat with clear cut mandate could still be attached to a Ministry but answerable to the NGC. On the reestablishment of the NGC, three major factors need consideration. One, that the NGC is small, much smaller than the last one which had 30

members. Two, that members are drawn from all major stakeholders (government, private sector, and civil society). And, three, that some vibrant members from the last NGC be retained with new equally dedicated ones. Second, the Country Self-assessment Report and the National Programme of Action should be updated. Much of the information in these reports reflects governance as of 2009 and 2010. This means that a good amount of information in the reports is already outdated. This should be done without undertaking another comprehensive research on the four areas of governance. Doing so will make Zambia deal with relevant governance problems. Just to cite two pieces of information that will certainly need updating. One, in the reports, the constitution making process is reported as ongoing and that certain human rights will be included in the Constitution. Early this year, the Constitution Amendment Bill of 2010 was rejected in Parliament leading to annulling the amendment of the Constitution. Two, most of the information on democratic and political governance was on the 2011 general elections, but now we are past elections. This means that other strategies dealing with problems on constitution making and elections need to be highlighted in the NaPOA. Third, the APRM needs to be revamped with new approaches developed. Although all stakeholders agree that the APRM is an ongoing process, very few have developed long-term strategies on the process. It is unknown what the long-term plan is on the APRM from the side of Government. The private sector has remained busy with their business. Even with a National Programme of Action in place, it remains unclear how the roles of different stakeholders will be coordinated in the long term. Needless to say that the public remains in the dark or with very scanty information on the APRM, the role of the general public in the APRM, before and after the peer review, is also not clear. Civil society organisations (CSOs) under the auspices of the Civil Society APRM Secretariat that have worked tirelessly on the APRM still hope that this process will be a successful one. But a first step to success is working towards the first review by the peers (Heads of States of the AU). This is what Zambia has to focus on now to make sure that it is peer reviewed in 2012 and implementation of the NaPOA commences thereafter. *Dominic Liche is a Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and Applied Ethics at the University of Zambia.

This article was published in the Zambia Civil Society APRM Secretariat Newsletter (2012)