8 August 2013

Zambia Official Denies 'Tarnished' Country Image

Zambia's information minister has rejected opposition accusations that President Michael Sata's actions and pronouncements have tarnished the country's "sterling" international image.

Kennedy Sakeni also dismissed accusations that other heads of state and government in Africa and other parts of the world have refused to visit Zambia since Mr. Sata's election. He says former American presidents, including George W. Bush, have recently visited the country as well as several former African leaders.

"All these statements are just showing that the opposition leader is just being malicious," said Sakeni. "Under two years, you don't expect all the presidents to be flocking into your country. They need to give you time to settle down, and we have settled down and the question of anybody shunning this country because our president has been arrogant, that doesn't arise in any manner."

Sakeni's comments came after Nevers Mumba, leader of the main opposition Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), said in an interview that the country's image has suffered since Sata's Patriotic Front Party (PF) came to power.

Zambia media quoted Mumba as saying that Sata's abusive language at diplomatic events was embarrassing Zambians.

"Despite President Sata having been to every continent and many countries, none of all the heads of states he has visited have reciprocated ... because no foreign head of state wants to take that risk of being ridiculed by our unpredictable head of state," Mumba was quoted as saying.

But information minister Sakeni said the opposition leader has wrong perception about the president's wit.

"Our president has got a very good sense of humor. Even locally here, he has that humor which makes people appreciate and which makes a gathering [come to] life," said Sakeni.

Several opposition groups also have accused the government of having a poor human rights record. The parties, including the MMD and the United Party for National Development (UPND), say the ruling party uses state institutions to harass and intimidate opposition supporters. Sakeni disagreed.

"The human rights record of our government is above board. The opposition criticizes the government and they criticize the president and none of them is ever arrested or detained for criticizing the president," said Sakeni.

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