Zam­bian pres­i­dent urges unity as govt, op­po­si­tion pre­pare for talks


LUSAKA: Zam­bian Pres­i­dent Edgar Lungu on Fri­day called for unity among po­lit­i­cal groups ahead of talks be­tween the gov­ern­ment and the op­po­si­tion aimed at rec­on­cil­i­a­tion af­ter a po­lit­i­cal cri­sis ear­lier this year.

The leader of the op­po­si­tion United Party for Na­tional Devel­op­ment (UPND), Hakainde Hichilema, was ar­rested with five others in April and charged with plot­ting to over­throw the gov­ern­ment af­ter his con­voy failed to make way for Lungu’s mo­tor­cade.

The case stoked po­lit­i­cal ten­sions in Zam­bia, a ma­jor cop­per pro­ducer and seen as one of Africa’s more sta­ble and func­tional democ­ra­cies, fol­low­ing a bruis­ing elec­tion last year.

Hichilema was freed from prison in Au­gust af­ter the state dropped the charges, to pave the way for di­a­logue be­tween the two sides fol­low­ing me­di­a­tion by Com­mon­wealth Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Pa­tri­cia Scot­land.

Scot­land’s special en­voy Ibrahim Gam­bari is in Zam­bia and has sep­a­rately held talks with Lungu, Hichilema and other op­po­si­tion lead­ers.

In an ad­dress at the open­ing of the na­tional assem­bly, Lungu said Zam­bians could dis­agree and quar­rel but would al­ways re­main one. “The fac­tors that unite us are much greater than those that seek to di­vide us,” he said.

Op­po­si­tion UPND mem­bers of Par­lia­ment, who boy­cotted Lungu’s last ad­dress, at­tended Fri­day’s ses­sion, say­ing their at­ten­dance would give con­fi­dence to the process of di­a­logue.

“The UPND MPs took this de­ci­sion in the in­ter­est of the coun­try in view of the forth­com­ing po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue,” their spokesman Jack Mwi­imbu said in a state­ment.

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