United States Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote says Zambians want politicians and leaders to be more responsive to the needs of all citizens and to focus less on constant campaigning.
And Ambassador Foote says the international community is aware of instances of budgeted funds, including donor assistance, diverted for corrupt, personal or political use.
Meanwhile, Minister of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya says the United States has proved to be a commendable partner in development.
Speaking at the United States Independence Day reception at the Chief of Mission’s residence, Thursday, Ambassador Foote said having interacted with Zambians from all walks of life, they had told him that they were tired of corruption and political attacks.
“During my time here, I’ve come to see that the impact of the American support to your people could be greatly enhanced by a much stronger, reciprocal commitment by the Zambian government to our relationship…I’ve been blessed to visit all 10 Zambian provinces…I’ve found that despite our differences, we are extremely similar in our humanity, and we are frustrated when our voices go unheard…We all want good governance that effectively utilises resources and improves the lives of our families. As I watch Zambia’s reputation as a strong democracy slip in international reporting, I fear that it’s partly driven by divisive politics and a sub-optimal focus on the welfare of the Zambian people,” Ambassador Foote said.
“Zambians tell me they are sick of the political-party cadres, corruption, and the daily political attacks – from all sides. I would say this regardless of who is in power; the United States supports no political party over any other. We do firmly support the will of the Zambian citizens expressed through free, fair, and transparent democratic processes…Zambia’s people want politicians and leaders to be more responsive to the needs of all citizens, and to focus less on constant campaigning, and narrow political and economic interests of connected individuals.”
He warned Zambia to be careful in its dealings with autocratic nations, further saying the international community was aware of how donor funds had been diverted for corrupt, personal or political use in some instances.
“We all want our governments to be transparent and accountable. People can’t freely participate when governments are not open about their affairs. Non-transparent contracting and debt acquisition are imposing problematic debt, fuelling corruption, and limiting the options for citizens to determine their futures. Zambia has every right to maintain diplomatic and commercial relationships with any country. Many Zambians believe, however, that their country should be careful about becoming beholden to autocratic nations that act chiefly in their own interests, limit fundamental freedoms and human rights, censor information available to their people, persecute religious minorities, and muzzle the media in their own countries. Also, we are all aware of instances of budgeted funds, not to mention donor assistance diverted for corrupt, personal or political use,” Ambassador Foote said.
“…By providing citizens better access to government dealings, such as by enacting the Freedom of Information bill, by publishing debt and procurement arrangements, and by requiring and disclosing reports on the assets of government officials, Zambia could significantly mitigate corruption and improve trust.”
He also noted that corruption and unnecessary bureaucracy was discouraging investors who were not in the habit of employing bribery in their dealings from coming to Zambia.
“We all want economic prosperity and better opportunities for our children and ourselves. To that end, I constantly receive requests to help attract more American money to Zambia. To invest, American businesses require stability, predictability, and a clean, level playing. They face grave US legal consequences for ‘donations’ or bribery to expedite deals often creating competitive disadvantages…,” Ambassador Foote said.
“…Zambia could better attract American investors by creating a more business-friendly climate, minimising corruption, offering incentives and establishing stable tax regimes that enable investors to adequately plan and profit from their risk…”
He also warned against using ‘fighting fake news’ as an excuse to muzzle the media.
“Everyone wants to enjoy universal human rights and freedoms. Some of our fundamental rights, freedoms and individual choices include speech, press, assembly, religion, opinion, and lifestyle. Disinformation has been around as long as human society, but fair, mature, societies accept that free speech protects the vast majority of expression and strengthens democracy. While we admit that the term fake news probably originated in the United States, using that as an excuse to suppress or persecute individuals and media organisations for expressing dissenting opinions goes against both countries’ constitutions and ideals,” said Ambassador Foote.
Meanwhile, Dr Chitalu thanked the US government for its significant support towards the fight against HIV/AIDS, among other areas.
“The United States of America has proved to be a dependable developmental partner to Zambia, providing significant support in sectors such as health, education, infrastructure development, water and sanitation, gender, agriculture, climate change, energy, anti-poaching, education, governance, trade and investment among others,” said Dr Chilufya.
“I especially wish to express gratitude of the Zambian Government for the additional $421 million which was recently granted through PEPFAR towards the epidemic control of HIV/AIDS in Zambia by 2020…”