LET’S NOT ALLOW THE DISAGREEMENT WITH THE USA AMBASSADOR TO ESCALATE INTO SOMETHING BIG. SMART CONFLICT MANAGEMENT IS KEY TO MAINTAINING GOOD BILATERAL RELATIONS.
I warned a few days ago and I’m repeating it today, let’s leave this diplomatic issue to government and let government handle it behind closed doors. This is not an issue for open statements and attacks. As you can see from the statement issued by the USA Ambassador it’s now no longer focused on gay rights but has now expanded to other issues. This is a partnership worth over $4b of HIV/AIDS funding the last decade and the annual figure stands at around $500m.
Let’s look at the trends: A few months ago, former envoy from one of the Nordic countries was so vocal on corruption issues related to Zambia. The former British envoy joined and expressed concern over management of social cash transfer and other corruption related issues. Just last week it was the Germany envoy and now the United States envoy. Basically these represent the powerful western countries. Their word and perception of Zambia carries more weight to their host government than anything our government will ever say. We are still so much dependent on them. Our own social sector funding is constrained by debt service and wage bill and donor support has been helping a lot.
My plea is let’s not deal with this issue like we are dealing with CK and other opposition leaders. This is a high diplomatic issue. The Ambassador has vented and you can clearly see there is more to this than the gay rights being discussed. He touched on governance, economic management, corruption and management of bilateral relations. He mentions efforts they made to address our energy crisis and how domestic politics stalled progress. These donors are highly connected and share notes. They are highly linked to institutions like IMF, World Bank, UN and even our own AfDB. Thousands of Zambians are employed in the NGO sector and most of our ministries depend on project funded by them. If this escalates, it has the potential to affect donor funding, budget support, investor perception and our economy is too weak for that. Him mentioning threats to his life sends serious security concerns and is not treated lightly by these host countries.
We might have a problem with the way he handled the issue but we always don’t have to engage in opening disagreements. What we should have done is to say we have noted comments attributed to the USA Ambassador and we are engaging him to hear his views and discuss the issue as bilateral partners. By now this issue would be dead.
We should not even be persuaded into thinking when we have bad relations with the West we can easily turn to the East. Zimbabwe ‘s economy is getting worse despite work ing closely with China.