US, Zambia love-hate relationship under the spotlight


United States Vice President Kamala Harris

from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
Zambia Bureau
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – A HOSTILE reception from some Zambians awaits United States Vice President, Kamala Harris, amid the love-hate relationship between the two countries.

The US and Zambia are strange bedfellows, their relations controversially cordial at times and intermittently tetchy at others.

Ahead of two major events Zambia is to host next week, both with the US, differences between the two countries are widening over the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) rights.

The main opposition is enraged at America’s alleged bullying of African nations in its differences with China and Russia. It is also accusing America of double standards on democracy and is opposed to the setting up of the American African Command Centre (AFRICOM) in the Southern African country.

The Patriotic Front (PF), formerly the governing party, expressed these concerns as Zambia prepares to co-host the second Summit For Democracy with the US as well as Costa Rica, Korea Republic and The Netherlands on March 29-30.

Presidents Joe Biden and Haikande Hichilema of the US and Zambia respectively are among leaders to co-chair the summit.

The Zambian leader is to host a plenary on “Democracy Delivering Strong Institutions”, featuring “leading activists/civil society figures” according to the programme.

Hichilema will also open a summit on “Free, Fair and Transparent Elections as the Foundation of Democratic Governance.”

Vice-President Mutale Nalumango will officially close the event.

Miguel Cardona, US Secretary of Education, will lead the American delegation to Zambia.

Biden’s deputy, Harris will meanwhile visit Zambia from March 31 to April 1, after visiting Ghana and Tanzania.

She will become the 18th US official to visit Africa in 2023.

PF sees this as a ploy by Biden’s government to influence Africa’s mostly non-aligned stance on global conflicts, the most severe at the moment being the Russia-Ukraine war.

The US and China, the world’s largest economies are also embroiled in a spat.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has been the most vocal against America’s moves to influence Africa on such matters.

Last year, during its 42nd Ordinary Summit Of Heads Of State And Government in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the bloc expressed a collective opposition to the Countering Malign Russian Activities In Africa Act.
In Namibia this year, SADC adopted the draft African Union declaration against the proposed law.

“We as the Patriotic Front have adopted the position of SADC and reject this law that is prescribing the bilateral relations with Russia,” PF Vice President, Given Lubinda said.

He said this also applied to the US foreign policy on Africa “to wrestle with China over Africa.

While SADC has been consistent, Zambia defied this non-aligned stance when it voted in favour of the condemnation of Russia at the UN. That aligned with the position of the US, the fiercest critic of Russia.

Hichilema’s government is accused of cosying up to America since he, and the United Party for National Development (UPND), came to power in 2021.

The opposition has cited the opening of the AFRICOM in Zambia and the country entering a deal with the US on the exploitation of the car battery value chain locally.

Another source of tension between the US and Zambia is the divergent policies on LGBTQI.

The US has been accused of pressuring the African country to uphold the rights of the members of the community but Zambia has remained unwavering against same-sex relations.

“We will not allow as a people, for the USA to impose its values on Zambia.” Lubinda insisted.

“Zambia may have to review its relationship with the USA as the country should not abandon its norms, national values, religious and cultural standing to please the Americans.”

Recently, Zambia police arrested organizers of a gender based violence march that later degenerated into a procession to demand the upholding of same-sex rights. The US Embassy denounced the arrests.

Diplomatic tempers boiled over in 2019 when the US recalled its ambassador, Daniel Lewis Foote, after a fallout with Zambia when he condemned the conviction of two men found to have performed consensual sex acts. The US threatened to “review” aid levels to Zambia.

While they are divided on numerous national issues, Zambia ruling party and the opposition always put a united front on LGBTQI issues.

“We will be holding a series of events and activities to raise awareness over this issue and to ensure that the USA Vice President, Ms Kamala Harris gets the position,” Lubinda said.

“We have begun to engaging other stakeholders and other institutions of like mind to foster this position. We call upon all well meaning Zambians to stand up in the defence of Zambia’s sovereignty and to defend its cultural norms and values.”

The hosting of the Summit for Democracy featured in Zambia’s fifth cabinet meeting held this week.

Chushi Kasanda, the Minister of Information and Media as well as chief government spokesperson, said cabinet agreed to co-host the summit in order to demonstrate Zambia’s “unwavering commitment to strengthening democracy, promoting respect for human rights, and the rule of law as shared responsibilities, within the country and the region.”

“Cabinet further agreed that African countries have a lot to learn from the Summit for Democracy as it focuses on addressing the challenges that especially young democracies face, as well as utilising opportunities that exist to strengthen and build democracies around the world,” she stated.

– CAJ News


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