In this interview, Priscilla Isaac, the Director of Elections for the Electoral Commission of Zambia in Lusaka, talks about her role in implementing the Conflict Management Committee to lessen the amount of electoral conflict. The Electoral Commission began utilizing the Conflict Management Committees as early as 2001, when the committee received help from the Electoral Initiative for Sustainable Democracy in Africa and the Malawi Electoral Commission to educate the general public on the prevention of electoral violence. However, the committee became more explicitly used in 2006, following the rise in disputes and conflicts mostly happening during by-elections. Isaac details that due to this increase in violence, the commission believed that it would be helpful to sit down the participants and have them sort out their disputes among themselves. With help from the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa and Electoral Commissions Forum of Southern Africa Development Community, the Conflict Management Committees were able to make user-friendly manuals that defined the electoral codes of conduct. Isaac explains how it was difficult in making the balance between facilitating a harmonious atmosphere and punishment. They wanted to make the people have a platform where they could peacefully discuss their political grievances, but at the same time knew that there would be some rule breakers. However, the commission itself does not have the ability to punish or arrest any perpetrators, so the potential punishment did not really scare people from having electoral disputes, scaring people off, etc. Henceforth, the primary role of the Electoral Commission through the Conflict Management Committee is to admonish—to set forward the rules and explain to the public that they should be mandatorily followed. She states the procedure of people expressing their complaints to the committee, and how one can express grievances on the district and national level.
At the time of this interview, Priscilla Isaac was the Director of Elections for the Electoral Commission of Zambia in Lusaka. She has played a major role in mitigating the prevalence of electoral disputes in Lusaka by her participation in founding the Conflict Management Committees. Isaac attended the University of Zambia where she studied psychology and public administration. Upon graduation, she joined the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM), which was the largest parastatal mining organization in Zambia. She worked in the public relations side of ZCCM for over ten years. However, she began to look for work following the mining industry being privatized by the government. Her search ended when she received an offer to work for the Electoral Commission of Zambia, in which she used her public relations background to participate in the commission’s public relations department. Shortly after, Isaac switched from this department and was asked to head the elections department as Acting Deputy Director of Elections and Voter Education—becoming the first woman to do so. In this new position, she began to educate the general public on the electoral code and the prevention of hostility in the time of elections. Following the increase in electoral disputes and violence in the midst of by-elections, the Electoral Commission decided to implement the Conflict Management Committees to help lessen the electoral violence through the creation of devices such as user-friendly manuals which explained the rules that parties must abide by to keep a just electoral environment. She acknowledges that there are many benefits and faults to this system, but believes in the process and recommends it to other places which are facing similar problems.