FES’ indelible mark Zambia’s democracy

EMELDA Musonda.

ZAMBIA is one of Africa’s young, yet stable and promising democracies.
Embarking on its democratic journey in 1964, when the first election which ushered United National Independence Party under the leadership of Kenneth Kaunda was held, the country has gone through its own highs and lows.
However, for the past five decades, the country can boast of peaceful political transitions and increased political participation.
In a bid to strengthen her democracy, Zambia has not walked this path alone; she has leaned on various partners for support.
One such partner is the Friedrich- Ebert-Stiftung (FES), a non-profit German foundation funded by the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, and headquartered in Bonn and Berlin.
Recently, FES celebrated its 50 years of operation in Zambia.
Throughout the five decades, FES has been a reliable partner that has supported the country’s democratic journey.
During the 50th anniversary celebrations, Vice-President Inonge Wina commended the foundation for its contribution to the country’s democracy in a speech read by the Minister in her office, Sylvia Chalikosa.
The foundation, which has been in existence since 1925, is named after Germany’s first democratically elected President, Friedrich Ebert – a social democrat.
According to FES Head of Africa Department Dr Manfred Öhm, from inception, FES’ general mandate has been anchored on the advancement of both socio-political and economic development in the spirit of social democracy, through civic education, research, and international cooperation.
He said in Zambia the foundation has been working with various stakeholders’ namely civil society, trade unions, the media, political parties and government to strengthen the democratic statehood, political participation and social justice.
In particular FES has been working towards promoting further development of democratic standards by all relevant socio-political actors and the implementation of relevant reforms aiming at just economic and social policies.
In collaboration with its various partners the foundation has been devoted to identifying democratic deficits and subsequently calling for alternatives.
In the past 50 years, FES has also been actively involved with various partners in the development of strategies on the right to freedom of information, gender equality, labour law reforms and new social security systems.
During the celebrations, a video of testimonies was shared on the impact the foundation has made on the country’s socio-political and economic development.
In promoting democracy FES has been working towards increased and effective political participation by building capacity of parliamentarians and other political players.
Minister of Justice Given Lubinda shared that the foundation has played a major role in building capacity of parliamentarians to participate in political and social discourse.
Zambia National Women’s Lobby executive director Juliet Chibuta noted that FES has contributed to promoting women participation in politics as well as building capacity for female politicians.
In cognisant of the role trade unions play in delivering social justice, the foundation has been working with trade unionists to build their capacity and develop labour law reforms and policies.
Former Minister of Labour and Social Security, Fackson Shamenda said he got involved with the foundation way back, in the early years of his trade unionism. He attributes success in his trade union career to FES for the support he received in terms of capacity building alongside other trade unionists.
FES also believes in a free and diverse media as a fundamental factor in the promotion of the right of access to information. In this regard the foundation in collaboration with Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia periodically conducts the African Media Barometer, which is an in-depth and comprehensive assessment of the media environments on the African continent.
Through the Youth Leadership Development Programme, FES has also been working to enhance leadership capacities of emerging youth leaders.
In this regard the foundation has been equipping youths with a unique set of skills required to achieve their aspirations and fulfil their desired role in society.
The foundation has extensively collaborated with the civil society to promote democracy, economic and social justice.
FES’ footprint is also reflected in infrastructure. One of the first projects of the FES in Zambia was the construction of the President’s Citizenship College in Kabwe in 1972, today known as Mulungushi University.
It is indisputable that one cannot narrate Zambia’s democratic and socio-economic journey without the mention of FES.
While so much has been achieved in the last 50 years, there is still much more that can be done.
As rightly noted by Head of FES Zambia Helmut Elischer the objectives of FES in Zambia can only be achieved if the foundation continues collaborating and receiving good will from the various socio political actors – governmental, civil society and international institutions.
To re-echo Mr Elisher’s words, it is hoped that the kind of collaboration demonstrated in the past 50 years will be strengthened even further in the years ahead.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.

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