WE HAVE a political agenda in Zambia guided by principles, good governance, democracy and rule of law, says German Ambassador to Zambia Bernd Finke. Ambassador Finke also says his country knows that UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema is a serious contender for the August 11 elections and would like to know what his vision for Zambia is.
And US Ambassador Eric Schultz says emotions are high in Zambia and stakes are high in the international community because what happens in one country affects all the other countries in a global world. Meanwhile, acting British High Commissioner Lucy Joyce says Zambia is in a difficult place economically at the moment and the country’s leadership should turn to the International Monetary Fund for help. Featuring on Power FM Radio’s Power and Politics programme yesterday, the three diplomats who were among the 15 who visited Hichilema at his residence last Saturday, explained their mission in Zambia. “When we look to the African continent from the Western perspective, Africa is still perceived as a continent which is home to many conflicts, civil strife, human rights violation, disregard for democratic principles and we discuss back home in Berlin… how we would like Africa to develop. We look at Zambia, it is a country with a good tradition of democratic transfers of power, the country where all the 73 tribes live together in peace,” Ambassador Finke said. “Above all, it is important for Zambia herself to have peaceful elections and implications for the regional or the international community at large come second. Violence should never be an instrument of political campaigning. Violence is an instrument for dictators and for criminals and there is no justification for political violence in a democratic system.
My government in Berlin, we expect both government and the opposition leaders here in the country to apply a policy of zero tolerance towards use of violence by their own ranks and perpetrators must be prosecuted because impunity is completely unacceptable.” When asked by the programme host, Kenny Tonga, how the diplomats would explain the accusations that they were interfering in Zambia’s internal politics, especially after their visit to Hichilema’s residence, Ambassador Schultz said stakes were high for Zambia as well as the international community. “The stakes are very high in this country right now. You have got a very hotly contested presidential election going on and so it is understandable that rhetoric is high, emotions are high. From our point of view, the stakes are high for the international community too. Zambia is important to the international community because of what it represents for the future of Africa – a prosperous democratic country, successful model for the rest of Africa. So we don’t consider what we do in this country to be interference, we consider it to be assistance, what happens in Zambia affects all other countries. I think that it is just the nature of politics in this day and age. It is a global community. We share a world together,” Ambassador Schultz said. “With respect to the meeting with HH, I think the easiest thing to do is really frankly just quote the statement by your foreign affairs minister ‘In other countries, such gatherings would not be accommodated by the government in power, but in Zambia events of this nature are accommodated as long as they are conducted within the confines of the law’. He said it is normal practice.
It is, actually. All of us are experienced diplomats. We have served all over the world. I have been doing this for 30 years. We meet with everybody, we talk with everybody including radio stations to get the best sense we can of what is going in a country and to be able to report back to our capitals what we think the direction and the trend in a given country is.” And Ambassador Finke agreed with his American counterpart. “From my perspective, I couldn’t agree more with what Eric has said. Mr Kalaba summarised it very well. It is part of our mandate to meet all stakeholders in the country. At the same time, I must say I have taken note of all these news clips in the past few weeks alleging that some diplomats interfere in the domestic affairs here and I agree that diplomats should refrain from interfering in the host country’s internal affairs. Above all, diplomats should stay away from being involved in party politics because this is really non of our business,” Ambassador Finke said. “But at the same time, I would like to stress that we have a political agenda here in this country, in Zambia. But it is an agenda which is not guided by partisan politics, but by political principles such as good governance, democracy, rule of law, protection of human rights, sustainable economic development and this is a political agenda we do not impose on Zambia but is based on the bilateral agreement with the government and that means commenting on these issues is not an interference but is part of our ongoing mutually agreed project implementation.
We don’t have any hidden agenda here. When we look at the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, it just allows us and even requires diplomats to meet with all stakeholders.” He said his country was aware that Hichilema was a serious contender for the coming elections. “We have many projects here in the country. We have an election campaign and my government in Berlin is curious to know, what are the ideas of all the stakeholders.
They know HH is a serious contender and they would like to know who is that guy? What is his vision for the country? What is his programme? So we meet with everybody and report back to Berlin in order to provide my government with a balanced picture,” said Ambassador Finke Meanwhile, Joyce said Zambia is a difficult place financially.
“It is true that Zambia is perhaps in a difficult place at the moment. I mean the external headwinds have been difficult, we have seen a slowdown in China, we have seen the Copper price folding, strong dollar and less rainfall this year. So I think an IMF programme can be very useful, it gives breathing room for a country and allows time for reform and recovery, including diversification – increasing power generation. There are usually reforms that are sought by the IMF… but I think it is a sign again of a mature country that would take that step to say ‘go for it’.
And just adding from an international perspective, a steady policy environment is also helpful to investors,” said Joyce.