Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema on Wednesday became the first African leader to visit the White House under the Biden administration, a decision a senior U.S. official described as a signal that the Biden administration supports democracy all over the world, including in Africa.
Hichilema, who was hosted by U.S. Vice President Kamala D. Harris discussed a wide range of issues, including diplomatic and economic ties, strengthening democratic institutions in the south-central African nation through multi-level governance reforms and beating the coronavirus pandemic.
“Vice President Kamala Harris met with President Hichilema today to congratulate him and the people of Zambia on an election with historic voter turnout, especially among young voters, which helped assure a peaceful transition of power,” the White House said in a statement. “The two leaders affirmed shared values that unite the U.S. and Zambia, and the Vice President and President Hichilema agreed to deepen collaboration on a number of important issues including health and pandemic preparedness and response.”
They also discussed measures to advance good governance and the rule of law in order to build strong institutions, the White House said, adding that Harris applauded “President Hichilema’s focus on prioritizing necessary reforms and his efforts to stabilize and grow the Zambian economy. The Vice President welcomed the establishment of new partnerships to deepen the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Zambia.
Vice President Harris will also meet with the President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo on Thursday to strengthen bilateral ties with the West African country.
On August 23, Amnesty International said that the inauguration of former opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema as Zambia’s new president was an opportunity to turn the tide on the country’s worsening human rights situation.
The organization urged the president-elect to prioritize protecting freedom of expression and association, take decisive action to end abuses by police and place socio-economic rights on his agenda, including tackling inequality, poverty, unemployment, collapsing healthcare system and poor education funding.