Africa Leaders Summit convenes in Washington DC this week, the event represents a positive opportunity to open up new channels of cooperation between the United States and the region. However in the case of Zambia, the U.S. administration must curb its blind support of the Patriotic Front (PF) government, which is responsible for growing political violence, repression, and failure of governance that threatens the nation’s stability, says the Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR).
“It’s a disgrace. People are suffering under this incompetent and brutal PF government, but the United States continues to give its tacit support,” said Robert Amsterdam, international counsel to the CDDR. “The U.S. administration must wake up to the worsening situation in Zambia. During his visit to Washington, Vice President Guy Scott must be grilled on critical issues such as President Michael Sata’s health, the PF’s failure to deliver the draft constitution, and the widespread harassment of journalists and opposition MPs.”
Delegates to the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit should ask Dr. Scott why multiple judges have been fired and the independence of the judiciary violated just to help Post newspaper owner Fred M’membe and Director of Public Prosecutions Mutembo Nchito avoid having to pay a K14 billion debt to the Development Bank of Zambia, Amsterdam says.
According to the 2014 annual report by non-governmental organization Freedom House, Zambia received a “downward trend arrow” due to the ruling party’s ongoing repression and harassment of the political opposition, including through the increased use of the Public Order Act, hindering its ability to operate in general and to campaign in by-elections.
The United States government has a known record of supporting the PF despite its poor record on rights and democracy, dating back to their forceful demands for parallel vote tabulation in the 2011 elections.
Most recently, the U.S. funded Zambian chapter of the Young African Leaders Initiatives (YALI) – a major Obama Administration project – was expelled from the Grand Coalition of NGOs, an umbrella group calling for immediate delivery of a new Constitution promised by the PF. This came after YALI sided with the Zambian government, calling for the constitution to be delayed until 2017 – a plan that was immediately endorsed by the ruling party.
Meanwhile, the lack of governance in Zambia has led to severe mismanagement of the economy, rising inflation, a near collapse of the Kwacha and rapidly increasing food prices. The only response from the PF government has been to stir up tribal conflicts.
“The U.S. administration must support unity and peace in Zambia, instead of endorsing the PF’s efforts to sow divisions and ethnic conflict,” said Amsterdam, pointing out Guy Scott’s own recent tribal slurs in an interview with the BBC, as well as Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba’s deeply divisive comments to ZNBC on Monday when he claimed that “educated” Zambians wanted to “hijack” the constitution.
“Many observers feel that Zambia is running on auto-pilot right now, as the president has made only a handful of appearances in recent months and hasn’t directly addressed the nation in a very long time,” said Amsterdam. “In this vacuum of leadership, it appears that Vice President Scott and Justice Minister Kabimba are once again defaulting to conflict and division as their language of power.”
“Washington has a responsibility to support the public safety of all Zambians and the stability of the nation – they must immediately stop enabling the abusive conduct of the PF,” said Amsterdam