Lusaka, (Tuesday, 22nd May, 2018)
His Excellency Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia is encouraged that the space of disagreement over the national dialogue process is now narrowing following the main opposition’s agreement that the process must be locally driven.
President Lungu particularly notes that the United Party for National Development (UPND), which has been against a locally-driven process, is nowin agreement that the Church, which is the conscious of the nation, must be at the centre of all efforts at consensus building and the envisaged broader national dialogue.
The President says the new development is uplifting because all along the UPND has been opposed to any locally driven process especially if the all- political parties’ body, the Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue (ZCID) is involved, insisting that only the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat can lead the process.
But the Head of State, as does the Commonwealth, has stated their unwavering commitment to a locally driven process assisted by external partners in specific areas of need. Now that the space of dissent on the leadership of the process is narrowing, the President hopes the Church will promptly respond to the many calls he made to them to join the process, especially in the light of the dissenting parties now arriving at the same expectation.
The President therefore appeals to the ZCID to immediately find the necessary space for the Church to join the leadership of the National Dialogue process.
“This country has seen the remarkable efforts of the Church in pushing for consensus and achieving admirable results out of previous processes of political dialogue. Our confidence in the Church in this regard is therefore unquestionable. I therefore welcome the UPND’s affirmation that a locally-driven process with the Church at the centre of it, is the way to go,” the President says.
The President notes that since time immemorial the Church in Zambia has been at the centre of peace-building and one salient example where the Church played a pivotal role is the dialogue process in 1990 when it brokered talks that helped Zambia’s peaceful transition from the one-party state to the current multiparty democratic dispensation.
“That grand moment at the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Cross remains an inviolable symbol of the power of dialogue because it left us an enduring memory of the boundless opportunity inherent in the human spirit. What matters is the will, the goodwill of all participants,” the President emphasized.
“I have at various platforms including the holy ground the Cathedral of the Child Jesus and elsewhere, publicly called upon the Church to join the National Dialogue process. I implored both the Archbishop Emeritus of Lusaka Telesphore Mpundu, his successor Archbishop Alick Banda and the Bishop George Lungu, the leader of the Catholic bishops in Zambia to join this process.”
At various church events elsewhere, the President has repeatedly prodded the church to take an active interest in nation-building by supporting the national dialogue process and practically sending its sons and daughters into politics so that they can help entrench civil values among the usually ultra-competitive actors in the political arena.
“It is important for all of us in politics and beyond to realize that we are called to a higher cause of advancing national cohesion as a moral imperative that is far bigger than the narrow political interest we often pursue. It is therefore our inescapable duty to rally our supporters towards a broad-based national agenda that speaks to the interests of the greater majority of our citizens,” the President says.
The President says at no time has he and the Patriotic Front Governmentsought to exclude any stakeholders from the national dialogue process but instead advocated for a broad-based coalition of the willing that must arrive at a consensual position.
“My interest remains that whatever outcome is achieved out of the national dialogue process must be a product of consensus for the betterment of the country. Therefore, leadership of the process with the Church as an integral part of it must be a product of consensus for a locally-driven process open to any necessary external support especially in capacity-building and other areas that require the intervention of our cooperating partners,” the President said.