U.S. Ambassador to Zambia Eric Schultz yesterday participated in a Power FM radio interview together with German Ambassador Bernd Finke and Acting British High Commissioner Lucy Joyce. The interview focused on Zambia’s positive reputation in the region as a successful, peaceful, multi-party democracy. The three also answered questions on Zambia’s public order act, cooperation with the Zambian government, and support for free, fair, and credible elections in Zambia.
During the interview, Ambassador Schultz stated that Zambia is arguably the most successful multi-party democracy within the region. The coming year – and specifically the lead-up to and conduct of the general election – will be crucial for Zambia. He said that for the international community, Zambia’s elections are representative of the country’s democracy. He said that as cooperating partners, the United States stands with Zambia in anticipating a free, fair, and peaceful general election in 2016.
In response to interview questions about claims that Western governments are interfering in Zambia’s internal affairs and about whether a visit to an opposition leader is considered endorsement of that leader, Ambassador Schultz noted that commenting on U.S. elections, for example, is common and normal given the global community in which we live.
Ambassador Schultz referred to The Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs Harry Kalaba’s recent remarks that, “The engagement of the diplomatic corps by all stakeholders such as political parties, including opposition, is a normal practice in any democratic country, especially in the run-up to general elections.” Ambassador Schultz reiterated that the United States government meets with everybody, and talks with everybody. He said it would be inappropriate for the United States government to support one party or candidate over another. He said that the United States does support free, fair, credible elections that uphold democratic standards and that allow Zambians to come together to overcome the country’s economic and other challenges and said that the United States is assisting with the 2016 Zambian election.
When asked about the U.S. role in the election, Ambassador Schultz stated that the U.S. government is providing $3.8 million to support the elections in August. He said that this will include support for the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) directly and for a parallel-vote tabulation through the National Democratic Institute in collaboration with the British High Commission, the ECZ , and the Christian Churches Monitoring Group. He said the U.S. Embassy will also field an election observation team. The Ambassador said our efforts, and those of others in the international community, would contribute to the transparency of the electoral process.
German Ambassador Finke added that the German government’s bilateral agreements with the Zambia government mean that Germany does have a political agenda in Zambia: not an agenda for any party, but to promote Zambia’s democracy and governance. He said that the German government has many projects in Zambia, and that, particularly during an election year, the German government is interested in hearing from all stakeholders, including opposition leaders, regarding developments in democracy and governance. Acting British High Commissioner Lucy Joyce repeated The Honorable Minister Kalaba’s statement that diplomats’ visit to an opposition leader “is a clear indication of the strength and maturity of the country’s democracy.”
Ambassador Schultz was asked about a U.S. Embassy visit to The Post Newspaper while the Zambian Revenue Authority was also on the newspaper’s premises. He responded that the visit to The Post was a routine visit by U.S. Embassy staff personnel. He and his colleagues said the international community supports a free media and that the press empowers the people through information.
In response to a question about the Public Order Act, the three diplomats applauded the recent announcement by the Minister of Home Affairs that the Zambian government will review the Act and that the Government of Zambia is accepting comments on the Act, which they intend to supply.
When asked to comment on the Minister of Finance’s recent announcement that the Cabinet had given the green light for the Zambian government to engage with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on an economic program in 2016, Ambassador Schultz stated that the IMF is set up specifically to assist countries when they are in fiscal difficulty to help stabilize the economy.
He said that an IMF program is not a gift. He said that the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom are major contributors to the IMF with funding from our taxpayers. He said that it is incumbent upon IMF contributors such as the United States to conduct due diligence on conditions leading up to an IMF program to make sure that the program makes sense.
Ambassador Schultz and his colleagues concluded by encouraging Zambians, and especially young Zambians, to exercise their democratic right to vote.