Africa-Press – Zambia. 1. As Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP) we have closely followed the debate on the planned establishment of a presence of the United States Military – African Command (AFRICOM) on Zambian soil, as announced by President Hakainde Hichilema when he met AFRICOM’s Brigadier General Peter Bailey on 25th April 2022.
2. We have also taken note of the clarifications issued on this matter by the US Embassy in Zambia on 27th April 2022 as well as the further clarifications issued by the Minister of Defense, Hon. Ambrose Lufuma on 2nd May 2022.
3. After due consideration of all the submissions on this matter, our position is that President Hakainde Hichilema erred when he made a unilateral decision to welcome the military presence of another country on the sovereign soil of our nation without seeking Parliamentary approval nor stakeholder input.
4. The powers of a President are clearly defined in article 90 to 98 of the Republican Constitution, and do not include negotiating, compromising or undermining the sovereignty of the Republic. By unilaterally authorizing the presence of a foreign military on Zambian soil without Parliamentary approval, President Hakainde Hichilema breached the Constitution of the Republic of Zambia.
5. It is worth noting here that the nature, scope, location or magnitude of the planned AFRICOM presence in Zambia does not matter. What matters is that a foreign military was illegally authorized to operate on Zambian soil by the President.
6. With regard to the attempted explanation issued by the Minister of Defense, it is worth noting that the United States Government already has a military attaché at their Embassy here in Zambia, just like Zambia has a military attaché at our various missions abroad. The purpose of these military attachés is to coordinate military to military cooperation among countries, through diplomatic channels.
7. It is important to further take note of the fact that AFRICOM does not fall under the US Department of State, which is responsible for diplomatic relations with other countries. Rather, AFRICOM falls under the Department of Defense. Therefore, establishing a presence of AFRICOM in Zambia is the equivalent of establishing a presence of, say the Zambia Army 2nd Infantry Battalion in another country. Obviously, such a move would not be tolerated by any country in the world, no matter how friendly Zambia is with such a country.
8. As Patriots for Economic Progress, we are not interested in the Minister’s grammatical gymnastics. It does not matter whether the Minister refers to AFRICOM’s planned presence in Zambia as an office of security cooperation or a military base or military barracks. The bottom line is that the military personnel of another country will be on Zambia’s sovereign soil.
9. We therefore request President Hakainde Hichilema to withdraw the illegal permission which he had granted to AFRICOM to establish a military presence in Zambia. The President must follow the right channels by seeking Parliamentary approval. He must also consult widely with both local stakeholders as well as our neighbors in the region. Once due process is followed, and the outcome is in favor of an AFRICOM presence in Zambia, then we can proceed from there.
10. We further wish to implore the Minister of Defense to desist from issuing threats against citizens who wish to comment on this matter. Both the Minister and the President should be reminded that the Republic of Zambia is vested in its citizens, and that as elected representatives, their role is that of temporary custodians on behalf of the people. Therefore, the people have a final say on how this country is governed, and no one should gag or threaten the people. Let the people talk. Thank You and May God Bless the Good Citizens of the Republic of Zambia and Our Ailing Nation.