University of Zambia (UNZA) political science lecturer Lee Habasonda says government’s decision to expel Cuban Ambassador to Zambia Nelson Pages Vilas shows the level of hostility and deteriorating relations between the two states.

And Habasonda says Ambassador Vilas’ expulsion proves that the Zambian government does not like what the Cuban government is doing in Zambia.

In to a statement made available to News Diggers! Habasonda observed that the expulsion of Ambassador Vilas was ill timed and did not add any value to the country’s already sinking international reputation.

“This week the debate has been centred around the decision by the Zambian government to send the Cuban Ambassador packing to Havana. Indeed, Zambian authorities evoked the relevant instruments of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR). The VCDR codifies diplomatic conduct and privileges. In examining the Zambian government action, it is important to note that the convention gives quite a bit of leeway on kicking out diplomats. Article 9 states, ‘the receiving state may at any time and without having to explain its decision, notify the sending state that the head of the mission or any member of the diplomatic staff of the mission is persona non grata or that any other member of the staff of the mission is not acceptable. In such cases, the sending state shall, as appropriate, either recall the person concerned or terminate his functions with the mission’,” Habasonda said.

“The government intention would seem to sit well with the expectation that the Cuban government would recall Ambassador Pages Villas or terminate his functions with the Zambian mission. However, while the government reserves the right to revoke accreditation of Ambassador Villas to Zambia, there are implications to this action. First, it shows a deterioration of relations between the two states and secondly it shows a level of hostility. This is a country that has trained many Zambian students and quite a number of doctors. The question is whether the measure government has imposed on the ambassador is proportional to his action and in the best interest of the two countries. Considering that Zambia and Cuba share historical ties which date back in time, the action by government which is not necessarily wrong seems to be insensitive to the long standing friendship between the two countries. Indeed, Ambassador Pages should have been given a demarche and censured accordingly instead of the extreme measure to expel him which risks our cordial relations with Cuba- a major actor in the south to south cooperation.”

And Habasonda observed that the expulsion was sending a very serious message to Cuba.

“The expulsion of the Cuban Ambassador to Zambia from the country is a very serious message being sent to Cuba and indicates a level of tension caused either by the Cuban policies or the conduct of the ambassador in Zambia. By sending Cuba’s ambassador back home, Zambia is saying very clearly that they do not like what the government of Cuba is doing in Zambia or do not approve of the ambassador himself. One would therefore urge government and diplomats to engage constantly so that such actions do not create a bad impression about both Zambia and Cuba. As it were, while the ambassador may have over stepped in his role as a representative of the head of state, the action makes Zambia appear to be highly intolerant in matters incidental to domestic politics when this could have been addressed differently. Obviously with the international bad press on Zambia’s treatment of opposition parties in the country, the act is ill timed and does not add much value to this sagging international reputation. Additionally, the government should have given centre stage to the ministry of Foreign Affairs to deal with this matter despite the president being the chief diplomat,” stated Habasonda.