January 14, 2005

'Poverty eradication is top priority, not constitution', says President

The fight against poverty is Government's top priority and not the enactment of a new Constitution as being agitated by some opposition political parties and the civil society, President Mwanawasa has announced. He accused opposition political parties of creating despondency by agitating for demonstrations when people were crying for development. According to him, it would be pointless to spend most time talking about the Constitution while hundreds of people were wallowing in poverty. The President said he would not stop anyone from demonstrating over the Constitution-making process but would remain focused on poverty reduction strategies. His statement came after parts of civil society and opposition parties held demonstrations. Zambia's new constitution is currently being drafted by a commission appointed by the President. The NGOs and opposition both want the constitutional review to be undertaken by a more representative Constituent Assembly (CA), rather than the current Constitutional Review Commission (CRC). Their rejection of the process is largely due to concerns that most of the CRC commissioners are presidential appointees, and that the president has the power to reject the commission's recommendations. Mwanawasa's government has repeatedly in the past dismissed the proposed CA as overly "expensive, cumbersome, and lacking the legitimacy" that the government enjoyed by virtue of being elected. (The Times of Zambia, Ndola/Rts)

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