Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has launched the country’s first written defense policy since independence. It will help chart the way forward for the country's military. The ten-section policy looks at the role of the military during peacetime and emphasizes the need for political neutrality, military professionalism, technical advances, preparedness, and adequate equipment. Zambia’s minister of information and broadcasting, Benny Tetamashimba, spoke with Voice of America English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey.
“The defense policy that has been produced for the first time in our history by the president. For us who are in the ruling party, we are very grateful that we can produce a defense policy. It will show all aspects of what happens in the defense force. For example, we are now talking about corruption; there should be no corruption in terms of recruitment. The will be issues of “Do we have to do things which are against what the international norms are?” and so on. The behavior of the defense force, they are supposed to be servants of the people. They are not supposed to start thinking they can go into political arena by unlawful means and so on. So it’s a policy that is going to protect the officers and make sure the officers enjoy their work in the defense forces.”
Reacting to skepticism about the timing of his government’s move, Tetamashimba said, “The problem with African politics is that there are a lot of suspicions in what someone does. President Mwanawasa, when he was vice president in the first MMD government, he served about two and half years or three years and then he resigned his position as vice president, claiming that there [is a] lot of corruption and abuse of resources. Many of the leaders in the opposition today did not agree with him that there was a lot of corruption, even many Zambians. This time round, now that he has come back as president, he had to start fighting corruption. And then as president, that’s why he has been bringing in all these good things. So the people who are saying why now, it is just because the man is doing well and they feel that he should not do it so that he lose maybe some votes. But we are not there for votes; we are doing something that is going to remain for any future generation to know that there was a government led by President Mwanawasa which did this, which did that, for the Zambian people.”
Tetamashimba explains the significance of the new defense policy, “It is just being open. The Zambian people must know about their own defense force. During the previous era a Zambian will not look at an officer of the special branch (secret service); if you look at him he will even say, ‘I will lock you up.’ But this time round you can go in the barracks as a civilian and even have some wine if you drink wine in their clubs and so on. So all it is that the defense force is coming closer to the people who they are supposed to be serving.”
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