Outgoing Zambian dictator Edgar Lungu on Tuesday refused to meet American Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfieldwho was in the country to discuss key issues especially regarding the upcoming general elections.
State House and diplomatic sources revealed that an appointment was initially made and agreed upon but Lungu later cancelled when he heard that the top American diplomat was going to raise the issue if PF sponsored violence and attempts to manipulate the results of the August elections.
The diplomat with his powerful entourage sent by American President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry left Zambia on Wednesday very disappoibted as many countries now fear there will be serious violence during elections due to PF.
Sources revealed that the diplomats had fruitful meeting with leading opposition figure Hakainde Hichilema of the UPND and were also scheduled to meet Post Newspaper editor-in-chief Fred M’membe, but that was the day M’membe was arrested.
Infact part of the reasons for the arrest of Fred M’membe by Lungu was to prevent him from meeting the top American diplomats on Tuesday.
Before leaving Zambia, Thomas-Greenfield held a press conference where she stated that Zambia’s August 11 elections are important to Zambia meeting aspirations as a regional leader. She said, “The August 11 elections matter to the United States government, the region, international community, as well as the Zambian people. Zambia has built itself a democratic tradition that should be jealously and courageously guarded.” She further stated, “Zambia’s reputation is on the line during this pre-election period and on August 11. The August 11 elections must be free, transparent, and credible.”
U.S. Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield said that press freedom is integral to free, credible, transparent elections. She reiterated the U.S. Embassy statement that the timing of the closure of The Post Newspaper by the Zambian Revenue Authority, only weeks before important elections in Zambia, is of deep concern. She urged the Government of the Republic of Zambia to work with the Zambian Revenue Authority and The Post to find a way forward that allows The Post to begin to pay its back taxes and reopen. She added that the beating and arrest of The Post owner, his wife, and managing editor, and indeed the beating and harassment of any member of the press, is a direct assault on press freedom in Zambia.
On political violence, Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield stated that Zambia’s political parties should avoid situations that can lead to political violence and refrain from reacting in a negative and violent manner to provocations from opposing party cadres. She said, “All political parties should speak out publicly against acts of violence and make frequent, strong statements condemning violence perpetrated by both sides. Party leaders are ultimately responsible for the actions of all of their party members.”
She closed by stating that the United States Government does not support any Zambian political party or candidate. She said, “Our candidates for the August 11 elections are the Zambian people and democracy. The Zambian people must be able to freely choose the candidate of their choice on August 11, without pressure, fear, intimidation, or coercion.”