Former Nigerian president General Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday visited incarcerated Main Opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) president Hakainde Hichilema (HH) at Zambia’s Mukobeko maximum prison in Kabwe. This was after the President Lungu granted him permission and was flown to Kabwe by the Zambia Air-Force (ZAF).
Obasanjo said that “I am happy that His Excellency [President Lungu] allowed me to visit and I had a two hours discussion with the opposition leader. I brought his attention into various issues regarding the need to uphold peace, unity and stability of the country. I get an impression from the opposition leader [HH] that 2016 is no longer an issue but about what happens in the future and how can we do things better,” Obasanjo said.
The former Nigerian Leader who also ruled as both a Military and Civilian leader further said that he sees the gap between President Edgar Lungu and incarcerated UPND president Hakainde Hichilema narrowing. Obasanjo said the opposition leader [HH] was likely to soon put aside the differences that arose after last year’s elections and move forward.
In April 2017, Obasanjo was among the first in Africa to condemn the arrest of Zambia’s main opposition leader HH. In a statement signed by his Media Aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, Obasanjo said it was in the best interest of the country [Zambia] to maintain the rule of law and human rights principles, which he said are recipe for peace, stability and development not only in the Southern African country [Zambia], but the entire African continent.
Later in May 2017, the Ruling Patriotic Front (PF) issued a media statement expressing concern on the media statements issues by Gen Obasanjo’s media team. The PF media team stated that “We appreciate the role General Olesugun Obasanjo is trying to play as an elderly African statesman in discussing the political developments in Zambia. Sometimes, however, we feel he is trying too much, especially when it comes to the seemingly helpless but nevertheless reckless comments he keeps making regarding the on-going trial of Hakainde Hichilema”.
The Catholic Bishops in Zambia had initiated a locally brewed solution to facilitate dialogue between Sitting President Lungu and opposition UPND president Hichilema but seem to have hit a snag as their engagement with Hichilema after meeting with President Lungu did not even result in a issuing a press statement, perhaps a signal that the outcome if made public would jeopardize the process.
Because of the open nature and lack of constitutional restrictions of our political party financing in Zambia, we find that our local politics are being heavily skewed and financed by foreign entities. Due to this scenario, the international mediation team as demonstrated by General Obasanjo and other international statesmen perhaps stands a better chance of concluding this negotiation process.
ZBT is of the view that as a country, we need to deal with the root cause of “Political Party financing” and tread carefully with foreign financing for both the Ruling and Opposition parties in Zambia. Pretending that foreign financing only affects the opposition is a fallacy, as even the ruling party has no solid structures for self financing and raising funds locally to protect their ideology from influence of large financiers. This is perhaps one of the fundamental problems we continue to grapple with in Zambian politics.
A solution needs to be put in place to ensure that the elected leaders focus on finding solutions to Zambia’s problems rather than attending to the wins and caprices of the winning party’s foreign financiers interest for Zambia to stand of taking a shot at attaining meaning development.
As a nation, we need to take heed of the maxim and age old wisdom that states that “he who pays the piper calls the tune”