June 28, 2016.
LUSAKA, Zambia — United States Department of State Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield visited Zambia June 26 – 28, 2016. This was Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield’s second trip to Zambia and during this visit she met officials of the Government of the Republic of Zambia, opposition political party members, civil society leaders, wildlife and tourism experts, and Zambian young leaders who participated in the Mandela Washington Fellowship program.
On Tuesday, June 28, 2016, Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield held a press conference at the U.S. Embassy to praise positive U.S.-Zambia relations, and Zambia’s important role as a stable, democratic country in the region. She noted that Zambia has made critical contributions to regional security, notably through its contribution to the UN peacekeeping operation in Central African Republic. She said that one of the highlights of her visit to Zambia was reviewing some of the troops in ZAMBAT I who participated in U.S.-led training prior to their deployment to CAR. The United States and Zambia have also worked together to overcome health, economic and other challenges. Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield said, “Zambia was the recipient of nearly $500 million in U.S. government assistance in fiscal year 2015.”
During the press conference, Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield also stated that Zambia’s August 11 elections are important to Zambia meeting aspirations as a regional leader. She said, “The August 11 elections matter to the United States government, the region, international community, as well as the Zambian people. Zambia has built itself a democratic tradition that should be jealously and courageously guarded.” She further stated, “Zambia’s reputation is on the line during this pre-election period and on August 11. The August 11 elections must be free, transparent, and credible.”
U.S. Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield said that press freedom is integral to free, credible, transparent elections. She reiterated the U.S. Embassy statement that the timing of the closure of The Post Newspaper by the Zambian Revenue Authority, only weeks before important elections in Zambia, is of deep concern. She urged the Government of the Republic of Zambia to work with the Zambian Revenue Authority and The Post to find a way forward that allows The Post to begin to pay its back taxes and reopen. She added that the beating and arrest of The Post owner, his wife, and managing editor, and indeed the beating and harassment of any member of the press, is a direct assault on press freedom in Zambia.
On political violence, Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield stated that Zambia’s political parties should avoid situations that can lead to political violence and refrain from reacting in a negative and violent manner to provocations from opposing party cadres. She said, “All political parties should speak out publicly against acts of violence and make frequent, strong statements condemning violence perpetrated by both sides. Party leaders are ultimately responsible for the actions of all of their party members.”
She closed by stating that the United States Government does not support any Zambian political party or candidate. She said, “Our candidates for the August 11 elections are the Zambian people and democracy. The Zambian people must be able to freely choose the candidate of their choice on August 11, without pressure, fear, intimidation, or coercion.”