The Biden administration said on Monday that it looks forward to working with Zambia’s President-elect Hakainde Hichilema who has unseated President Edgar Lungu, according to election results released on Monday.
“The United States congratulates President-elect Hakainde Hichilema on his victory in the August 12 general elections. We congratulate the people of Zambia for exercising their right to vote in historic numbers and welcome commitments from all parties to a peaceful and orderly transition,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement. “We look forward to working together with the Zambian government to advance our mutual interests and deepen the friendship between our two nations.”
The U.S. government added that “these polls are a tribute to the democratic ideals upon which the country was founded and an inspiration for the democratic aspirations of people around the world.”
“The United States reaffirms its strong partnership with Zambia and the Zambian people,” the statement added.
Hichilema, the leader of Zambia’s main opposition party, captured 2.8 million votes to defeat President Lungu who received 1.8 million votes, according to the election results. Lungu had governed the southern African nation since 2015.
59-year-old Hichilema, a businessman and the candidate of the United Party for National Development, had lost five previous bids for the presidency, but was lucky on his sixth attempt
He benefited from an economy that was in a mess due to Lungu’s bad policies, the devastating impact from the coronavirus pandemic, rising debt, skyrocketing unemployment numbers and increasing food prices.
Opposition and human rights organizations had also warned that human rights abuses were spreading in Zambia under Lungu and democracy was under attack.
Last June, Amnesty International’s campaigner for Southern Africa Vongai Chikwanda told Today News Africa‘s Kristi Pelzel in an interview that human rights violations were intensifying scarily in Zambia under President Edgar Lungu.
Chikwanda said there had been a rise in impunity, including unlawful killings, illegal and prolonged detentions of opposition figures and supporters and a ban on protests and public gatherings since Lungu came to power in 2016.
“For many years we have seen that Zambia was a haven for peace, but in recent times, things have gotten worse,” Chikwanda said. “Opposition parties are not allowed to assemble and protests are not allowed, and people are spending longer times in detention.”