25 October 2017

Zambia: Pres. Lungu and Hichilema Need to Walk the Dialogue Path

The political situation in Zambia is much improved in the aftermath of the release of UPND president Hakainde Hichilema on August 16 from prison on charges of treason.

The Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland had left the country after having met President Edgar Lungu and Hichilema setting out clear guidelines on the dialogue process.

Three months later the two leaders have yet to come to a round table. Two key moments have passed in the country that could have provided the opportunity for the two to come face to face.

The National Day of Prayer and fasting, whatever the issues around its declaration, may have been a window to make a firm statement on the need for healing and reconciliation.

If not the less contentious Independence Day provides enough credence for national leaders to come together and bridge the differences mired in politics. Both leaders did make a commitment to dialogue before the Commonwealth delegation.

The two leaders have continued side stepping each other with innuendos about each other beginning to resurface in a less than conciliatory tone. The UPND have been all over town demonizing President Lungu in one breath while on the other seek dialogue with the Head of State.

We seem to be back to the weekly trend of UPND press conferences vilifying the system in very invasive language. For dialogue to commence there has to be a commitment to give up something.

It could help that the tone is less offensive but more conciliatory. After all President Lungu seems to have gone some measure in setting steps for dialogue. Many of the politically inclined cases before the courts of law have been out rightly thrown out or ended up in nolle prosequis.

That has been healthy in the spirit of diluting political tension and many could agree that President Lungu has been less combative in his political language.

Under the current atmosphere there has to be more from both parties if the promised dialogue is to take place.

Something has to give after both parties would have to learn something in the words of John F Kennedy that is condensed in his famous line, "The test for courage comes when you are in the minority while the test for tolerance comes when you are in the majority."

It is not for us to state who is in the majority or minority but our prayer is that this dialogue turns out to be more than just a promise.

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