USA Chargé d’Affaires to Zambia David Young says the American government wants to see a credible election in 2021.
And Young has praised News Diggers! newsPaper for its role in raising awareness on the need for citizens to register to vote.
Meanwhile, the US government has committed about K40 billion towards development aid to Zambia over a period of five years.
Speaking during a press conference, Wednesday, Young said the American government wanted to see a level playing field towards the 2021 elections, and expressed concern over the application of the Public Order Act.
“As we look ahead at next August Presidential’s election, we know that is a very important thing. Elections are important, elections have consequences. I want to say that we the United States, like other donors, our fellow democracies, we support the will of the Zambian people and the democratic process. So we want a level playing field, we want all parties and all candidates to be able to campaign fairly and equally with a level playing field.
If you have listened to my statements before I talked about the number of concerns that we have particularly been about the issues of a level playing field. The use of the public order act is very concerning because it is applied unequally between parties, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of press, freedom of radio stations not to be harassed by party cadres. Cadres violence is a huge problem for intimidation of people in a democratic space. So we want to support a level playing field, equal treatment for different parties, freedom through the press. Certainly I would say we have some concerns.
Young said the Embassy was not watching the concerns with folded hands, but was making efforts to engage with stakeholder to discuss interventions.
“We raise those concerns when I meet with all parties. Yesterday I met with the President, I meet with senior government Ministers and political leaders and the PF, I meet with heads of the UPND, with the MMD. So I have frequent meetings, I meet with parties across the board. I just had a meeting with the ECZ yesterday with the British High Commissioner and the Irish Ambassador, we had a long discussion about issues that have to do with the run up to the elections next year. We met with civil society, churches, the private sector and others. Our engagement is focused on equal access and a level playing field. We don’t take sides of one candidate or another. We say and I say it whether to President Edgar Lungu , HH or others, I say ‘we are not taking sides, we just want a free, credible and peaceful election for the Zambian people to decide your leaders whom you want to elect’. That is why we support the process.”
He assured that the American government would work with any party that formed government in 2021 through a free and fair credible election.
“No matter what happens in the USA election in three weeks we will keep working together as partners. We have been doing this since 1964 and we are going to do it till 2064 and beyond. No matter what happens in the elections next August, if it is a free and fair election we will keep dealing with the government in power that comes in power after a free and fair election. Our assistance is to the Zambian people transcendent of our politics of elections and your politics and elections. It is a long standing commitment that we make in our five year plan,” Young said
“The United States is very strongly committed to our partnership with Zambia because we are fellow democracies and that heritage that we share of democracies is a very powerful bond between us. The multi party system which has been in existence since 1991 is a huge milestone, is a huge bedrock of our support together. The fact that Zambia has had a peaceful transfer of power between parties is a very important thing, that is something that Zambia and the United States have in common, that when people go to the polls it really matters and they vote and the votes are counted and they are evaluated by ECZ. We work on parallel voter tabulation with civil society and we are able to verify the results.”
Young praised News Diggers! newspaper stance taken in raising awareness on the need for citizens to register to vote.
“I want to give a shout out to news agencies, don’t think I am playing favourites but I want to give a shout out to today’s issue of News Diggers! I was very excited that News Diggers! puts a lot of coverage about what people need to do to register as voters here in Zambia. I just want to encourage other media both print and broadcast to push the word out there about what Zambians need to do to register, because it is critical as we know from this month with the pre registration online and through November that citizens register to vote so that next August you can vote. I really think the media have a very important role to play in this and again trying to give attention to this I think is really really important,” he said.
And Young said the launch of the K39 billion pledge to Zambia was one of the biggest stories of the year.
” This is one of the biggest stories of the year, this is a huge commitment of K39 billion, it is almost $2 billion over our five years plan. This is just one of our five USA government agencies, so we are the largest donor bilateral and multilateral to Zambia. What we do is down at the community level saving lives with health, education improvements. Sometimes people don’t see it because it is not a big flashy project but it is saving the lives of 1.2 million Zambians who receive our PEPFAR HIV AIDS assistance or the work through Malaria, Tuberculosis program or the education of more than one million primary school kids in provinces around the country. So I think that is a real indication of what we do,” said Young.
Meanwhile USAID Zambia mission director Sheryl Stumbras said the $1.9 billion pledge would focus on five major areas that would look to develop Zambia.
“This is a five year strategy that pledges $1.9 billion over our five year period about K40 billion. USAID is one of several USA agencies in Lusaka under the leadership of Charge Affairs and the Department of State. When we do a strategy with our stakeholders these are our government counterparts and Zambians at large, we try to fit our strategy in the countries development priority and come to agreement to what the US government’s comparative advantage in those developmental priorities, when we set out a strategy. This five year strategy really looks at a couple of key objectives. First and foremost we are looking at improving the health, literacy and food security for the most vulnerable Zambians. This also includes working with HIV academic control which is a huge priority for the USA government through the PEPFAR initiative,” said Strumbras