Zambia’s president-elect Hakainde Hichilema discusses corruption, democracy and human rights with Biden official

The U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power on Tuesday spoke with Zambian President-elect Hakainde Hichilema and both discussed his plans for fighting corruption and strengthening democratic values, press freedom, and civil liberties. 

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who now leads the U.S. Agency for International Development, gives an opening statement at her U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, DC, U.S., March 23, 2021. Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS 
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who now leads the U.S. Agency for International Development, gives an opening statement at her U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, DC, U.S., March 23, 2021. Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS

The call with Hichilema whose election victory as the seventh President of the Republic of Zambia was announced on Monday was to congratulate him and discuss a variety of issues.

“The Administrator and President-elect Hichilema discussed the critical role played by Zambian civil society during the peaceful election and how their vigilant oversight increased the transparency of the electoral process and contributed to the widespread confidence in the results, despite the constraints imposed by the government on the President-elect, including limits on his movement and a social media shutdown that started on election day,” USAID Spokesperson Rebecca Chalif said in a statement.

Chalif said President-elect Hichilema “emphasized that it was important for his new government to demonstrate that it can deliver for the people of Zambia, especially young people.”

Chalif added that “Administrator Power said that the United States looked forward to partnering with the President-elect’s government as it seeks to meet the Zambian people’s democratic and economic aspirations,” while President-elect Hichilema hoped that, “in a period of democratic backsliding globally, Zambia’s progress can serve as an example for other nations.”

“The Administrator noted USAID’s long-time support of the Zambian people across programming in health, education, climate change, economic development, and democracy and governance. They also discussed the challenges Zambia and the world are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they pledged to work together in an effort to fight the pandemic and accelerate Zambia’s economic recovery,” Chalif added.

On Monday, the Biden administration said 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.”

President Joe Biden poses for photos as he arrives and is greeted by President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, Tuesday, June 15, 2021, at the European Council Headquarters in Brussels. (Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith) 
President Joe Biden poses for photos as he arrives and is greeted by President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, Tuesday, June 15, 2021, at the European Council Headquarters in Brussels. (Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith)

“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.

Edgar Lungu 
Edgar Lungu

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.”

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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