US vice president Kamala Harris and Zambian president Hakainde Hichilema at the State House in Lusaka after a press conference. Photo by SALIM DAWOOD/AFP via Getty Images.

African governments are rightly resistant to polarizing views of geopolitics that seek to pigeonhole them into being aligned with the West versus China and Russia.

President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia provides an important example that non-alignment or ‘positive neutrality’ can be more than just rhetoric and can bring genuine economic benefit.

Hichilema welcomed US vice-president Kamala Harris as part of a charm offensive across the continent to counter perceived Chinese influence. She arrived only one day after US secretary of education Dr Miguel A Cardona led the US delegation to co-host the second Summit for Democracy, an initiative of President Biden.…  Seguir leyendo »

Zambia's president Hakainde Hichilema addresses the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York. Photo by MARY ALTAFFER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

At his inauguration one year ago this week, Zambia’s president Hakainde Hichilema inherited a country with a heavily indebted economy and a reputation for fiscal unreliability.

He has secured, for now at least, Zambian citizens’ buy-in and patience for what he is seeking to do – with future debt-repayment austerity lurking on the horizon.

Hichilema’s predecessor Edgar Lungu consistently harassed – and some would say persecuted – Hichilema, casting him in the role of a perpetual loser who was destined never to win the presidency with five failed previous efforts.

At the same time, Lungu embarked on an ambitious but recklessly-financed programme of both prestige and infrastructural projects, relying greatly on foreign liquidity particularly from China, and on commercial borrowings by way of the issue of Eurobonds – upon which his administration defaulted.…  Seguir leyendo »

Botswana president Mokgweetsi Masisi, Zambia president Hakainde Hichilema, and South African minister of minerals and energy Gwede Mantashe at the 2022 Mining Indaba in Cape Town. Photo by RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images.

Zambian president Hakainde Hichilema – affectionately known as HH – used his speech at the annual African Mining Indaba held in Cape Town in May to sell to the international investment community his vision for the nation’s vital mining sector.

The country is well-positioned to capitalize on the global drive for the minerals critical to green transitions. The ambition is to more than treble the country’s copper production to three million tonnes per year.

The speech was well-received by industry players who have long waited for the country’s political and regulatory regimes to match the nations resource potential. Promises of a transparent, predictable, and fair regulatory environment created a hopeful buzz among investors.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Thursday, Zambia voters will decide whether to reelect President Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front (PF) to a third term, after an earlier ruling by the country’s top court that his bid wasn’t a breach of the two-term limit. But critics also accuse Lungu of manipulating the electoral register to disenfranchise voters in regions that support his main opponent, Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND).

Zambia watchers note these election irregularities and other concerns, many of which are symptomatic of longer-term patterns. Here’s what you need to know about this week’s elections in Zambia.

In 1991, the peaceful handover of power in Zambia signified one of the most enduring legacies of the 30-year presidency of Kenneth Kaunda, who died this year.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kenneth Kaunda at a Commonwealth Summit as Zambian president. After the former British colony gained its independence in 1964, Kaunda was elected president, a position he held until 1991. Photo by Peter Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images.

During his 9,860 days in office from 1964, Kenneth Kaunda fought for majority rule of his neighbours, hosting the headquarters of the ANC and SWAPO in Lusaka and after losing elections in 1991 he left office graciously and became a campaigner for HIV and youth engagement.

In 1960 Kaunda took over the leadership of the United National Independence party (UNIP) and it swept to victory in the independence election of 1964, ending Zambia’s legal status as a British protectorate. Almost immediately, Kaunda was confronted by the white Rhodesian rebels’ unilateral declaration of independence on 11 November 1965.

Independent Zambia became a one-party state under Kaunda (widely known as KK), who banned all political parties except UNIP in 1972.…  Seguir leyendo »

Figure 2: Political regime preferences | Zambia | 1999-2017 The Afrobarometer survey asked respondents whether they approved or disapproved of single-party rule, military rule, and dictatorship, then asked their opinion on democracy as a form of government. Data: Afrobarometer.

For 25 years, Zambia helped set the pace toward democratic consolidation in Africa. The country was quick to transition to a multiparty system, held six competitive elections and saw peaceful shifts of ruling parties. Based on past surveys, Zambians express among the longest and strongest attachments to the principles of democracy of people anywhere in Africa.

The past year, however, has seen authoritarian backsliding, marked by a government crackdown on free speech and the press. Since August 2016 elections marred by violent demonstrations, the opposition leader has been jailed, opposition members of Parliament have been banished, and a state of emergency has suspended civil liberties and granted the police increased powers of arrest and detention.…  Seguir leyendo »

Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema waves to supporters from a police van as he leaves a courtroom in Lusaka, Zambia, on April 18. (Dawood Salim/AFP/Getty Images)

When Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema was arrested last month and charged with treason, the world took notice. Granted, Zambia has never been a model democracy, but this degree of government repression was far out of the ordinary.

Zambia, despite its corruption and weak political institutions, is in fact known for relatively high levels of democratic stability. Elections in Zambia have been competitive. When President Rupiah Banda lost the 2011 election, for instance, he peacefully handed over power to the opposition.

In the past, the judiciary and other political institutions have displayed independence in relation to the president. The government has generally respected Zambia’s free press.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of the Zambian ruling party Patriotic Front at the closing rally of President Edward Lungu's campaign on August 10, 2016 in Lusaka. Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images.

A closely contested and unpredictable election saw Zambia's incumbent President Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front (PF) emerge victorious – but with just 50.35 per cent of the vote, protesters clashing with the police in the streets, and support mostly concentrated in the north and east of the country, much needs to be done to unite a politically divided nation.

Lungu is now charged with creating that unity while also steering Zambia from its current economic downturn; this will require political will and careful control of government spending.

China's economic downturn and the subsequent fall in copper prices greatly impacted Zambia, where copper accounts for over three-quarters of export earnings and 16 per cent of GDP.…  Seguir leyendo »

It went almost unnoticed on a day of brinkmanship and geopolitical pyrotechnics. At the United Nations, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rolled out his demand for full statehood. Israel responded predictably, backed by the United States and others. Diplomats scuttled hurriedly to and fro, seeking compromises and middle ground – anything to do a deal that would keep the matter from coming to a vote in the Security Council or General Assembly.

Meanwhile, famine in the Horn of Africa continues. A new UN mission began to deploy in Libya – the vanguard of the international community’s effort to help a newly liberated and, one hopes, democratizing country emerge from conflict and 42 years of despotic rule.…  Seguir leyendo »

The news editor of the largest independent daily newspaper in Zambia, The Post, is being prosecuted for distributing obscene materials. Her crime? During a recent doctors' strike Chansa Kabwela sent the country's vice-president and health minister and NGOs photographs of a woman forced to give birth outside a hospital. The woman had been turned away from two medical clinics and the graphic images, taken by the women's husband, show her on the ground, legs spread, delivering the fetus in a breach position. The woman survived, the baby suffocated. Zambia's president, Rupiah Banda, denounced the photographs as pornographic and the government's outrage is focused not on a failed public health system which forces women to give birth on the street but on Kabwela's attempt to bring the case to their attention.…  Seguir leyendo »

It is one measure of American influence that a meeting at the White House can affect the traffic in Lusaka.

About a year and a half after the 2002 Oval Office policy session in which the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) -- the largest effort in history to fight a single disease -- was outlined in a black briefing book, Dr. Jeffrey Stringer received a call from an American embassy official. Stringer, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia, was asked if he could put 1,000 people on AIDS treatment within two months -- a nearly impossible task.…  Seguir leyendo »