Professor Imbrahim Gambari says PF and UPND have nominated eminent and respected Zambians to be part of a steering committee which will lead the dialogue process.

And Prof Gambari says Zambians must not view the Commonwealth as an alien body because this country is a full member of the intergovernmental organisation.

At a media briefing, Sunday, Prof Gambari, who is Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland’s special envoy, announced that the steering committee would be launched on March 26.

“We have talked about talks for long enough, now is the time for dialogue to start and the first step will be the formation of a steering committee comprised of eminent and respected Zambians. This steering committee will lead and direct the dialogue process. The steering committee will be formerly launched on the 26th of March 2018 in Lusaka. At that launch, all stakeholders and representatives of the international community will be invited to witness the event,” Prof Gambari said.

“Furthermore, the process will include the establishment of a working group including three sub groups which will examine the issues of constitutional and institutional reform, electoral reform and tolerance and civility in public life. I look forward to the commencement of national dialogue which is both inclusive and swift.”

He explained that PF and UPND had nominated eminent Zambians to be part of the steering committee.

“I want to commend UPND and the PF and others who have nominated people who are not necessarily card carrying members of the party but Zambians who are well respected, broad minded, who will put the interests of Zambia above any partisan concentration,” Prof Gambari said.

“Key stakeholders have submitted nominations and of course we can’t take all the nominations that we have received, I think close to 28, we want a very small group so we will prioritize their nominations.”

He outlined some of the issues on the national dialogue agenda.

“Following my consultations, Zambians have committed themselves to national political dialogue including on the following; peace, respect for the separation of powers between the three branches of government, an independent political process, an end to political violence, the right to freedom of expression, an end to tribalism, regionalism and to all forms of discrimination and good governance. Above all, there is a shared commitment to be open minded, to act with good faith and to ensure that the process is truly Zambian led and Zambian owned,” he said.

And when asked to comment on stakeholders who felt the Commonwealth must not be facilitating the dialogue process because Zambia was a sovereign state, Prof Gambari said the Commonwealth was not an alien body.

“What the Commonwealth is doing is just to facilitate the process and if you listened to me very well, this process will be led by a steering committee that will launch on the 26th, they are the ones who will lead the dialogue process. And Zambia is a member of the Commonwealth, it is not as if the Commonwealth is an alien body and there is nothing that the Commonwealth can do to undermine the sovereignty of Zambia,” Prof Gambari said adding that ZCID would be part of the process.

Asked to react to allegations that the Commonwealth was leaning towards the UPND, he said he was leaning towards Zambians.

“I am leaning towards Zambia and Zambians, that is the primary concentration. This process is going to be Zambian led and owned. So the question of perception, thats beyond me but I want to assure you that the commonwealth has only one interest in Zambia which is peace, unity of this country and to resume what it is known for. Zambia is known as a peaceful country, God fearing country, a good example of stability in the region. Just look at your neighborhood, nobody wants Zambia to be part of the conflict countries that we are dealing with in Africa, we have more than enough,” said Prof Gambari.