CHIEF Government Spokesperson Chushi Kasanda has defended the decision of US Vice-President Kamala Harris not to meet with former Zambian president Edgar Lungu during her recent visit to the country. Speaking during a media briefing on Wednesday, Kasanda said it was not a blunder for Harris to have skipped Lungu, as the former president was still in active politics.
Kasanda noted that Lungu’s own political party had declared that he was still involved in politics, and therefore, it would not have been appropriate for the US Vice-President to meet with him. She also pointed out that if Harris had met with Lungu, it would have set a precedent for other self-proclaimed presidents to expect similar treatment.
“Former president Lungu is still in active politics, and his own party has declared that he is still in active politics. So if we had Kamala Harris visit the former president, that means we should have opened it up to every other person who calls themselves president,” Kasanda said.
Kasanda also suggested that Harris could have met with opposition leaders like Sean Tembo and Chilufya Tayali, who had previously met with Lungu. She said such a move would have demonstrated Harris’ willingness to engage with all political actors in Zambia.
Harris visited Zambia on Monday, as part of her four-nation tour of Africa. During her visit, she met with President Hakainde Hichilema and other government officials to discuss issues of mutual concern, including democracy, human rights, and economic development.
Hichilema’s election victory last August, which saw him defeat Lungu, was hailed as a major milestone for democracy in Zambia. His administration has pledged to promote accountability, transparency, and good governance, and to pursue policies that will help to alleviate poverty and reduce inequality.
Harris praised Hichilema’s government for its commitment to these goals, saying that the US was eager to partner with Zambia to promote democracy and prosperity in the region.
“Our two countries share a commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law,” Harris said. “We look forward to partnering with Zambia to build a more prosperous and secure future for all our people.”
The US Vice-President also announced several new initiatives to support Zambia’s development, including a $1 million grant to support small businesses and a $40 million investment in clean energy.
Harris’ visit to Zambia was part of a broader effort by the US to deepen its engagement with Africa. In addition to Zambia, she also visited South Africa, Botswana, and Kenya, where she met with leaders and discussed a range of issues, including trade, security, and climate change.
Harris’ visit was seen as a positive step in strengthening the US-Africa partnership and promoting shared values of democracy, human rights, and economic development. However, her decision not to meet with Lungu has raised questions about the US’ approach to engaging with former leaders who are still active in politics.
In response to the controversy surrounding Harris’ decision not to meet with Lungu, some Zambian opposition leaders have criticized the US Vice-President for what they see as an attempt to interfere in the country’s politics. Sean Tembo, leader of the Patriots for Economic Progress party, accused Harris of playing favorites and ignoring the voices of ordinary Zambians. Chilufya Tayali, leader of the Economic and Equity Party, said that Harris’ visit had been a missed opportunity to engage with all political actors and promote inclusive dialogue. However, supporters of the Hichilema government have defended Harris’ decision, saying that it was consistent with the administration’s commitment to promoting democracy and good governance.