Danish envoy surprised at Sata’s warning as govt through Daily Mail tells ‘meddling’ envoys to go

Danish ambassador to Zambia Thomas Schjerbeck says he is surprised at president Michael Sata’ warning to diplomats who met opposition leaders.

Earlier in the week, Sata warned foreign diplomats against meddling in Zambia’s internal affairs.

The warning came after opposition leaders met with European Union officials in Lusaka over the government’s suspension of three judges.

Schjerbeck c ould not say much but just that he was surprised.

But, the Zambia government through it newspaper the Daily Mail has told foreigners whether diplomats or common people who are not happy to be in Zambia to pack and go.

In a strong worded editorial comment most likely written by people at State house but sent to Daily Mail for publishing, the government has accused the donors of having ‘dark corner meetings with the opposition.

The editorial is reproduced below:

Diplomats must take caution

THE Geneva Convention does not allow diplomat’s involvement in the internal politics of host countries. This is why seasoned diplomats would normally shy away from commenting on internal politics of a host country on the record.
When diplomats present their credentials to the President, it means they have been accepted by the host country and in a few instances some host countries have rejected some credentials of certain individuals due to certain reasons mostly undisclosed in public domain.
We have never known this to have happened in Zambia and we hope for the sake of cordial relationships with other countries, Zambia will continue accepting diplomats from cooperating countries to foster good relationships.
But when the diplomatic missions start hosting opposition political parties without a clearly spelt out agenda, this raises questions which beg answers because diplomatic missions and diplomats are expected to live above partisan politics in a host country.
This is why President Sata has expressed displeasure at the ‘interference’ in Zambia’s internal affairs by some diplomats accredited to the country.
If the alleged meeting between opposition parties and European Union (EU) diplomats was transparent and unsuspicious, perhaps the best the EU diplomats would have done would have been to make the indaba public and open it to the media too.
This may also explain why President Sata says his Government takes strong exception to envoys meddling in Zambia’s internal affairs because even the Geneva Convention which outlines guidelines on diplomatic etiquette does not allow diplomats to interfere in internal affairs of a host country.
As Mr Sata has said, Zambia has derived most of its laws from the Commonwealth countries having been colonialised by Britain.
In Britain and other foreign countries, meddling in a country’s internal affairs by diplomats is not tolerated.
In fact foreigners—diplomats or not—are bluntly told that if you do not like it here go back where you came from.
The issue about the suspension of three judges has been laid bare by the President who suspended them.
There is no need for the opposition to start holding unnecessary meetings when even the Law Association of Zambia and many other serious stakeholders have acknowledged that this was done within the law.
Much as the opposition leaders have a right to criticise the Government, we think their criticism must be in a justifiable manner if they hope to get public confidence and support instead of criticising for the sake of politicking.
Most stakeholders have welcomed the decision to probe the judges and ill-timed politicking about this suspension will only further serve to alienate some of the opposition leaders from the public as people await the outcome of the tribunal.
Currently the draft constitution is in circulation and we expect opposition parties and their leaders to be scrutinising the document and inform their supporters about the strengths and weaknesses in the draft instead of holding ‘dark corner’ meetings with some diplomats accredited to Zambia.
We are urging diplomats accredited to this country to heed the President’s advice to avoid embarrassing situations of being sent back which can actually lead to strained relationships.

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