The decision to release the Zambian opposition leader, Hakainde Hichilema, will help to progress peaceful dialogue, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said in a statement today.
The Secretary-General was responding to the news that Zambia’s Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) had decided to stay the treason case against the leader of the United Party for National Development through what’s called a nolle prosequi.
Expressing delight at the developments Secretary-General Scotland said, the DPP’s decision to issue a nolle prosequi was understandable and that in the circumstances it “is reasonable and offers a unique opportunity for the country to move forward in the interest of all Zambians, and to achieve political cohesion and reconciliation through dialogue.”
She added, “The DPP, as a custodian of the public interest and the rule of law, must have weighed what was in the interest of justice and the public interest at this delicate point in Zambia’s history and decided that, at this material time, it was not in the interest of the public to prosecute the leader of the opposition, especially following the commitment to peace and harmony generously given by both President Lungu and Mr Hichilema to me during my recent visit to Zambia, and their pledge to engage in a constructive, responsible and forward-looking dialogue.
“This is an opportunity for Zambians and their leaders to show the world that the Republic of Zambia still remains a symbol of peace and a beacon of stability, unity and political tolerance in Africa and the Commonwealth.”
The Secretary-General also used the opportunity to thank President Edgar Lungu and Mr Hichilema for their commitment and resolve to move forward, putting the past behind them and looking ahead to jointly and collectively address the issues that have deeply divided the peace-loving people of Zambia.
“I believe Zambians can rely on these leaders to wholeheartedly engage in this process and to craft a democratic, sustainable pathway which will lead the country not just to successful elections in 2021, but beyond,” she said.
Last week the Secretary-General announced that Commonwealth peace envoy Professor Ibrahim Gambari will be deployed to support the dialogue between the parties. In her statement today she confirmed that Professor Gambari will be arrive in Zambia “at the earliest convenience” and stressed that the Commonwealth and other stakeholders “would work towards ensuring that dialogue outcomes are implemented in good time for the 2021 elections”.
The Secretary-General is due to conclude her peace and relationship building tour of Africa today. She visited Uganda, Zambia, Tanzania, Zanzibar and Mozambique.