Diplomatic silence on steroids

Diplomatic silence on steroids

By Aaron Ng’ambi

Soon after the general election of August 2021, it turned out to be that the victory of the United Party for National Development (UPND) and its alliance partners was not their own doing.

In fact, it quickly became crystal clear that western countries vis-à-vis the diplomats accredited to Zambia wanted regime change from the get-go, and so they overwhelmingly supported the opposition in that election. They were unapologetic in their utterances, and intentions. For them the die had been cast, the line was drawn, and the decision was made that President Edgar Lungu, and the Patriotic Front (PF) must go.

Their support for opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema of the UPND was visible for anyone with common sense to see. These diplomats condemned the appearances of corruption, cadreism, undemocratic tendencies of the PF, police harassment of political opponents then, and much more.

In fact, they even went further to sponsor certain organisations disguised as civil society organisations to protest against the PF regime at any given chance. We saw this with the case of 42 fire tenders, which brought about some activists to prominence.

Unfortunately, the ordinary citizen did not know what was really taking place behind closed doors, in terms of the negotiations between the opposition then and the western countries through their diplomats. The path that Zambia was to undertake after Lungu and the PF were defeated had been successfully discussed, crafted, and negotiated way before the August 12th elections.

It is no wonder why the same western diplomats are now silent in the face of state-sponsored lawfare against individual citizens and the leaders of opposition political parties today, who have basic disagreements with the governance of President Hakainde Hichlema. And needless to say that the silence of these western diplomats accredited to Zambia is on steroids.

Let us examine a few issues of major concern, which have happened in Zambia since August 2021 under the new dawn government. Number 1, allegations of abductions – the Socialist Party of Dr Fred M’membe has claimed that three out of nine candidates in some by-elections which they participated in were abducted by the ruling party to simply stop them from being on the ballot for those ward elections.

This opposition party through its president, and deputy general secretary, have made these utterances publicly and even indicated that they reported the cases to the police, and the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) but to no avail. If this is true, then the question we ask is very simple – where is the voice of the western diplomats accredited to Zambia on this particular issue? for how long shall you as western countries remain silent over a serious matter?

In case some have forgotten, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has been issued with an arrest warrant over what the International Criminal Court (ICC) claims as charges of unlawful deportation and transfer of “Ukrainian” children from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation. In other words, the charges are kidnapping, transferring, and holding of persons against their will. Therefore, if any abductions of political opponents of this government is true, then the leaders of UPND risk possible indictments from the ICC for crimes of abductions under international law. Socialist Party members are not the only victims who have told this story to the public.

Also, not too long ago the former Zambian ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union (Emmanuel Mwamba) has claimed that he too was abducted for three days or so by state agents. In fact, the most recent and most controversial of such claims of abductions is no other than the case of honourable Jay Jay Banda, a current member of parliament for Petauke. This is really a bad record for the UPND just under three years of being in power. As a matter of fact, should there be any more suspected abductions under the watch of this regime, we can safely predict that the people will have no other option than to file an official complaint against this government at the ICC. This act alone will be far more damaging than the previous case of Sean Tembo’s submission or compliant presented before the same court.

The silence on steroids by the west is actually very disappointing for many citizens, and it can only be explained by one reason – it is pay back for them, and for all their investment in the man they supported prior to the elections of 2021. This is why western countries continue to speak highly of President HH’s government even in economic terms – but on the ground people continue to suffer and complain of hardships and things being worse off than the PF days.

It is not too long ago that the corruption allegations against the PF government was a favourite song of President Hichilema to which the western diplomats graciously danced with increased volume. Furthermore, the Financial Intelligence Center (FIC) reports of Madam Mary Chirwa before 2021 were received as manna from heaven. Those reports were widely circulated on social media, and opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema made press conferences speaking to those corruption allegations highlighted in those FIC reports.

Interestingly, on Monday June 3, 2024, the FIC report under the new dawn government has revealed that for the first quarter of 2024, almost K61 billion continues to leave the country through suspected tax evasion and money laundering activities by foreign nationals transferring suspected illicit funds. There is no reason for anyone to doubt or discredit the FIC report in any way, shape, or form now.

This institution has proved to be credible and uncompromising so far, and such a report must be treated with great concern at a time when people are suffering, and the government continues to tell them that this country has no money. Again, the silence of our “friends” is indeed on steroids. Interestingly, we have to indicate that President Hakainde has publicly referred to foreign nationals as his friends. The question then arises, could some of these so-called friends to the President be anywhere close to such unfortunate activities? I suppose only time will tell.

The United States of America gave Zambia about $16 million to fight corruption when Vice-President Kamala Harris visited Lusaka, yet the same United States is silent about the FIC report of 2024.

It is unthinkable that within two months from now, we will be clocking three years of the UPND rule or rather misrule. And during this whole period of time, no opposition political party has been allowed by the police and the state to address a rally.

This is a terrible record for a man who ran on a platform that promised change from repression and political intimidation. Regardless of what excuses the government gives us by refusing the opposition political party to hold public rallies, the ordinary people see through all these tactics, and they will demonstrate their displeasure through the ballot in 2026. The script is the same, the police read from the same template over and over again, in an attempt to block opposition politics.

Nonetheless, the new dawn administration is so amateurish that they cannot realise what is happening before their own eyes. Here is a piece of free advice for this regime, rest assured that each time you block the opposition political parties from having a rally by your very actions, you have generated more numbers in their favour, as the people begin to sympathise with them.

There are too many examples to mention pertaining to this matter, and again the western diplomats accredited to Zambia want us to believe they are not seeing what is happening under the rein of their favourite regime in southern Africa.
In the final analysis, we can only hope that the western diplomats and all well-meaning diplomats accredited to Zambia will begin to look at the interests of the ordinary Zambians first and foremost. Otherwise, the silence of some diplomats on all that is going wrong in our country is too loud to be ignored. If you choose to remain silent when ordinary Zambians are being harassed for speaking out, then do not blame anyone but yourselves if you are found on the wrong side of history. The political tension in the country is so intense that one can actually cut the tension with a knife. Sadly, those voices which were so vocal before the elections of 2021 have disappeared in thin air, and are nowhere to be found.

Arguably, there is already a general feeling suggesting that the UPND government and its alliance partners might as well be on their way out in 2026 should they continue on this trajectory.

The author is a political scientist with keen interest in domestic and global issues. Email: aaronngambi@yahoo.com

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