Zambia celebrates 47 years of independence from former colonial power Britain today (Monday).
“There are a lot of expectations and the renewal of patriotism, something that we saw slipping away in the last 20 years,” said Reuben Lifuka, chairman of Transparency International (TI) in Zambia.
But some citizens are asking newly elected President Michael Sata to clearly define his foreign policy as celebrations begin countrywide.
Malawi President Bingu Wa Mutharika
This came after Mr. Sata snubbed neighboring Malawi President Bingu Wa Mutharika by refusing to invite him to participate in today’s ceremony. Mr. Sata instead, invited Malawi Vice President Joyce Banda and former President Bakili Muluzi, both of whom oppose Mr. Mutharika.
Lifuka said President Sata has often not been seen as a true diplomat.
“One of the weakest areas for the PF [Patriotic Front] government is the manner in which they handle foreign relations for one particular reason. The president himself has not been known to be a diplomat in the ways he has handled affairs in the past,” said Lifuka. “There is a lot of anxiety to [about] how the president now…will deal with foreign relationships.”
Lifuka said the ruling party’s has yet to implement its manifesto which he said stipulates the importance of good neighborliness.
Since the recent election of President Sata, relations between Lusaka and Lilongwe seem to have deteriorated.
As an opposition leader, Mr. Sata was deported from Malawi in 2006 by the Mutharika government after visiting former President Bakili Muluzi. Since coming to power in elections this year, President Sata has demanded an apology from the Malawi government; Lilongwe has refused.
Lifuka said Zambia needs to build good relations with its neighbor for the betterment of their two peoples.
“We need to build cordial relations with Malawi… We are talking about people with common backgrounds and common interests. One would hope that the presidents of Zambia and of Malawi will find common ground soon and not let this particular issue cloud or sour the relationship that the countries have enjoyed… We see the need for both sides to do their bit,” said Lifuka.
Critics also questioned the rationale behind Mr. Sata’s recent apology to neighboring Angola for Lusaka’s backing of a rebel movement that battled Angola's government during a 27-year civil war.