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Commonwealth confirms dialogue intervention in Zambia political crisis

Commonwealth confirms dialogue intervention in Zambia political crisis

The Commonwealth has confirmed that it is leading a peaceful dialogue process in Zambia following a post-election crisis that has grown into in a political crisis.

A statement from the group said its aim with the process was at “establishing a roadmap of reforms in preparation of the 2021 elections, working towards a peaceful resolution and boosting ‘public confidence in their commitment to a constructive, progressive and responsible engagement’”.

Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, recently made a trip to the southern African country where she met with President Lungu and detained opposition leader, Hakainde Hichilema, who is facing treason charges. He has denied the charges.

Visiting Zambia at this crucial time was a priority for me, because this is where we essentially launched this new integrated approach to supporting peaceful elections and other democratic processes.

She also met with other stakeholders in Zambian politics amongst others: church leaders, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Patrick Matibini, cabinet ministers, and other senior opposition officials. She also met with the Electoral Commission of Zambia and members of the Commonwealth diplomatic community in Zambia.

“At the beginning of my tenure as Secretary-General, I decided to establish a new approach to democracy and governance support.

‘‘So visiting Zambia at this crucial time was a priority for me, because this is where we essentially launched this new integrated approach to supporting peaceful elections and other democratic processes. This approach entails providing support to member states before, during and after elections,” the Secretary-General said.

Arrest and charges

The UPND leader was arrested in April during a police raid on his home in the capital Lusaka. Hichilema was said to have endangered the life of the president when his motorcade refused to give way to a presidential convoy months back.

He, along with five others, were charged with three offenses: treason, disobeying lawful orders and using insulting language. The state prosecutor dropped the second charge whiles the magistrate struck out the third citing incoherent and untruthful testimonies by police officers.

His lawyers previously said the case should not proceed to a high court because the officer who issued the trial papers had no authority to do so. With the current development, a trial date would be set by a high court judge.

Zambia, a major copper producer has been in a politically tensed state following disputed elections held in August last year.

The UPND have maintained that the polls were rigged in favour of President Edgar Lungu and the ruling Patriotic Front (PF). They have however failed to overturn the results through the courts.