PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema says many people with divergent views were unable to attend Dr Kenneth Kaunda’s funeral last year, but everyone was welcome to former president Rupiah Banda’s funeral.

And President Hichilema says the consequences of the Ukraine, Russia war such as high commodity and fuel prices are only just beginning to be seen.

Speaking when he met Canadian Ambassador to Zambia Pamela O’Donnell, Tuesday, President Hichilema said government had placed emphasis on restoring the rule of law.

“We are also grateful that you are able to mourn with us on the loss of president Rupiah Banda. We thank you for congratulating us for taking up public office. It is good you met us when we were still in opposition and you can see what we are doing and what we continue doing is in line with what we said to you when we met in opposition. As people say, you can judge the consistency of individuals by how they carry themselves on two sides of the coin. That is why we have placed particular emphasis on a number of issues, including restoring the rule of law, which you know when you came, when we met, it was very difficult even to have a decent meeting with the opposition. It is not the case now. We are effectively and firmly working on restoring the rule of law.” President Hichilema said.

“Even the funeral of the late president Banda, if you look at who attended the funeral and compare that to who attended president Kaunda’s funeral who died sometime last year, many people of divergent views were not able to attend KK’s funeral, but this funeral, everybody was welcome. That is what we committed to do when we were in opposition. And we continue working on those issues that restore the rule of law, just order in society, civility, respect human rights and freedoms, it is important to us.”

He said he was a victim of abuse but that the pain should not be extended to others.

“Despite the challenges that we inherited. As an individual, I am one of the living victims of abuse and we want to make sure that others don’t go through what we went through. I think that is fair, how we would want to distinguish ourselves, if it was painful to us, then we must not allow that pain to be extended to others. That is a matter of values, a matter of principles. Democracy is important to us. We also believe in peace, security and stability,” he said.

President Hichilema asked the Canadian government to reconsider its bilateral development programs with Zambia.

“We were elected on the ticket of change, change to create jobs, change to create business opportunities, change to stabilise the country and focus on positives rather than negative things. We would like Canada to reconsider its bilateral development programs with Zambia. I have listened to what you have said, good things,” President Hichilema said.

And President Hichilema said the consequences of the Ukraine, Russia war such as high commodity and fuel prices were only just beginning to be seen.

“I just want to indicate that our vote on Ukraine was not against Russia, it was for peace, it was for stability. Remember we said we believe in peace, stability, and security for development. Without this, it will be difficult to deliver our agenda to the people of Zambia. They elected us into office to give them opportunities. Now you see the consequences of that war, in our view, unnecessary war, look at the commodity prices, fuel and this is only the beginning. And this is why all of us must be against war. And now because resources will be digressed from useful applications where the resources are needed most but to wage war, countries are increasing their budgets,” President Hichilema said, emphasising that Zambia’s vote at the UN was not against Russia, but for peace.

Meanwhile, President Hichilema said government preferred a situation where Cabinet came from outside parliament as this would allow for women to take up more leadership roles.

“We have had issues with regards to a number of women that made it through elective offices. Parliament, local government as councillors. Largely, it is a historical legacy problem but also the environment was quite bad. A number of women just walked away from running for public office. Given that we draw our Cabinet from inside parliament, because we have not amended our constitution. We prefer a situation where Cabinet comes from outside parliament then that will allow us more choice for women. Of course, the vice-president is a woman, the first ever Speaker of the National Assembly is a woman. More than that, the deputy speaker of the National Assembly is also a woman,” said President Hichilema.

“We continue to try where we have opportunities to make appointments for more women. But we would like a broader, definite way of dealing with this issue. We thought we could use the constitution amendment where we can bring in a mixed member parliament if citizens agree. We would like to put this as part of the package of the constitution amendment. That will come through alongside the public order Act, and the enhancement of the bill of rights and many other things.”

Meanwhile, High Commissioner O’Donnell said government’s policies since President Hichilema assumed office had increased confidence among Canadian companies.

“The policy decisions that have been made since your government came into power have really increased confidence among the companies and the Canadian companies are very interested in investing more. I could talk about Barrick, FQM, there is definite interest. And they are interested in working with government either investing in Mopani or KCM. And we would love to talk to you about their vision,” said O’Donnell.

“I wanted to mention the Ukraine crisis, we very much appreciate it, Zambia’s vote for the previous UN resolution on Ukraine but I wanted to bring to your attention that there is another resolution this week on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine and we are very much hoping that Zambia will support that as well. Of course there are devastating humanitarian consequences with mass displacement of 3 million refugees, civilian casualties and the resolution calls for ensuring protection for civilians and for a stop to the conflict. It also calls for ongoing negotiations and dialogue.”