Creating Avenues to Resolve Election Disputes: Conflict Management Committees in Zambia, 2001-2011
Focus: Reducing Divisive Effects of Competition, Elections
Topics: Peace councils, Legal Framework, Training, Election Security, Dispute Resolution
Type: Case Studies
Author: Rachel Jackson
Keywords: Zambia, Electoral Commission of Zambia, conflict management, peace committees, mediation, electoral conflict, election violence, Priscilla Isaac, political party, political party liaison committee, election commission, dispute resolution, code of conduct
In 2001, the Electoral Commission of Zambia faced a tense presidential and parliamentary election. The commission needed a new mechanism to stave off conflict, clarify responsibilities for dispute resolution, and provide complainants with an effective outlet for their concerns. Inspired by the use of a similar system in South Africa, the commission leaders developed conflict management committees at both the national and district levels. The committees—comprising representatives from political parties, law enforcement, civil society, and faith-based organizations—mediated conflicts related to violations of the electoral code of conduct. The electoral commission piloted the committees in the 2001 elections, before fully implementing and strengthening the committees at the national level and in the 74 electoral districts for the 2006 elections. The mediation system helped Zambia navigate an unexpected by-election following the death of President Levy Mwanawasa in 2008 and an opposition victory over the ruling party in 2011. Though some challenges remained, the electoral commission staff and committee members credited the committees with helping the country navigate competitive elections and reduce tensions between competing parties.