Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema will be first African leader to visit White House, to be received by Vice President Kamala Harris

Chief White House Correspondent for | + posts

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.

Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema will be the first African leader to visit the White House, senior administration officials told reporters on Wednesday morning.

Hichilema, who will be at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, will be received by U.S. Vice President Kamala D. Harris.

Vice President Kamala Harris salutes U.S. Marines as she disembarks Marine Two at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Friday, June 25, 2021, to begin her trip to El Paso, Texas. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Vice President Kamala Harris salutes U.S. Marines as she disembarks Marine Two at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Friday, June 25, 2021, to begin her trip to El Paso, Texas. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Officials said Harris and Hichilema will discuss a wide-range of issues, including strengthening democracy and human rights as well as defeating the coronavirus pandemic.

Hichilema’s visit is a signal that the Biden administration supports democracy all over the world, including in Africa, a senior administration official said.

Vice President Harris will also meet with the President of Ghana on Thursday and discuss a certain number of issues, including democracy, the officials said.

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.”

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.

Simon Ateba

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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