The state of democracy and human rights in Zambia has sparked a public disagreement between the Germany Ambassador to Zambia, Anne Wagner-Mitchell, and scholar Dr. Sishuwa Sishuwa.
The exchange unfolded on X (formerly known as Twitter) and revolved around contrasting opinions on the progress of democracy and human rights in the country since the election of President Hakainde Hichilema.
The debate started when Dr. Sishuwa criticized remarks made by Swedish Ambassador to Zambia, Johan Hallenborg, who praised the UPND government for enhancing human rights and improving the civic space during their two years in office.
Dr. Sishuwa contended that the situation contradicted the reality on the ground, highlighting that no public rallies organized by opposition parties had been allowed by the Zambia Police since the UPND came to power in August 2021.
Ambassador Wagner-Mitchell joined the discussion, expressing her perspective on the matter. She acknowledged the importance of freedom of assembly and stressed the need to protect and enable this fundamental civil liberty.
She went on to suggest that, in her view, Zambia had made significant progress in terms of human rights and democracy.
Dr. Sishuwa responded by seeking clarity from the Ambassador on her reference point when she mentioned that “things have moved a long way forward.”
He raised questions about the standard used for measuring progress and highlighted specific examples of human rights violations that had occurred since President Hichilema’s election. He also emphasized the importance of evidence to support such claims.
The scholar further expressed his concerns about the silence of Western diplomats regarding these violations, particularly when compared to their previous condemnation of similar actions during the previous government’s tenure.
He called for consistent standards in assessing democracy and human rights, regardless of the country in question.
Ambassador Wagner-Mitchell acknowledged Dr. Sishuwa’s engagement and suggested continuing the conversation in person.
Meanwhile, renowned Zimbabwean filmmaker and journalist Hopewell Chin’ono condemned the banning of opposition rallies in Zambia.
He expressed disappointment in President Hichilema’s denial of basic democratic rights to the opposition, calling it autocratic and contrary to the principles of democracy.
The exchange between diplomats and scholars underscores the ongoing debate surrounding democracy and human rights in Zambia and the role of international actors in shaping the narrative.
This story has been adopted from “The Mast”