President Edgar Lungu and opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema have agreed to engage in a peaceful dialogue

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Ms Scotland during a press conference in Lusaka
Ms Scotland during
a press conference in LusakaPresident Edgar Lungu and
opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema have agreed to engage in a
peaceful dialogue to address the country’s political tensions.

This follows extensive consultations with Commonwealth
Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, who arrived in the country
on Sunday as part of a peace and relationship building tour of
Africa. During her visit she held consultations with President
Lungu, church leaders, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr
Patrick Matibini, cabinet ministers, Mr Hichilema and other
senior officials of his party. She also met with the Electoral
Commission of Zambia and members of the Commonwealth diplomatic
community in Zambia.

A statement issued to the media yesterday by the
Secretary-General said the President and the leader of the
opposition have agreed to “a process of dialogue”, establishing
a roadmap of reforms in preparation of the 2021 elections,
working towards a peaceful resolution and boosting “public
confidence in their commitment to a constructive, progressive
and responsible engagement”.

The dialogue and roadmap to reform, it said, will be
facilitated by the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Good
Offices and key national stakeholders.

“At the beginning of my tenure as Secretary-General, I decided
to establish a new approach to democracy and governance
support. So visiting Zambia at this crucial time was a priority
for me, because this is where we essentially launched this new
integrated approach to supporting peaceful elections and other
democratic processes. This approach entails providing support
to member states before, during and after elections,” said the
Secretary-General.

The Secretary-General appointed Professor Ibrahim Gambari as
her envoy before Zambia’s 2016 general elections with a mandate
to work with the Electoral Commission of Zambia to help support
peaceful dialogue. Secretary-General Scotland also deployed an
observer group for the elections and is now pleased to support
the government and the opposition to address issues of mutual
interest.

She said, “I was able to build on the work of dedicated church
leaders, other international representatives and the diplomatic
community, and I am delighted that we have been able to come to
an agreement to work together to strengthen peace and democracy
in Zambia as we move forward.”

Secretary-General Scotland added that she was in the process of
assigning a peace envoy to the country to facilitate “the
critical and peaceful dialogue and reforms that are necessary
for Zambia to preserve its status as a beacon of peace and good
governance in Africa.”

During her trip she offered assistance through Commonwealth
initiatives such as the recently launched Commonwealth Office
for Civil and Criminal Justice Reform, which was described by
ministers as timely, necessary and a “brilliant idea” for
Zambia. The new programme will assist member countries to
deliver access to justice and sustainable development through
the creation of fair and effective national laws, and enhance
policy-making and legislation.

The Secretary-General also highlighted a project to mobilise
partnerships and support to vulnerable small states to achieve
their sustainable development goals, and measures to boost
trade, empower young people and women and address climate
change.

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