JERRY MUNTHALI, Addis Ababa
PRESIDENT Lungu has accepted to join in the mediation process in the South Sudan crisis at the request of that countryâ€™s President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar.
Special assistant to the President for press and public relations Amos Chanda told journalists on the sidelines of the just-ended 24th African Union summit here on Saturday that President Lungu met both Mr Kiir and Mr Machar, who is Sudan Peopleâ€™s Liberation Army and Movement leader.
Mr Machar served as the first Vice-President of South Sudan from its independence in 2011 until his dismissal in 2013.
â€œThe point of contention is that there is a peace process under the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the regional group that is mediating, but South Sudan has said Zambia has a credible record in peace and mediation efforts and at one time, former President Kenneth Kaunda mediated in the South Sudan crisis,â€ Mr Chanda said.
He said it is from that background that President Lungu has intervened in the South Sudan crisis.
â€œPresident Lungu has directed me and Minister of Foreign Affairs Harry Kalaba to make the necessary contacts with the rebel leaders and to get their contacts, which I have done. I have spoken to the chief of staff of the rebel leader.
â€œI have also spoken to the commander of the rebel group and they have given me the telephone numbers. President Lungu has since informed President Kiir that he will be speaking to Mr Machar and possibly invite him to Lusaka to begin the process of helping,â€ Mr Chanda said.
He said President Lungu will add to the ongoing mediation process by IGAD.
â€œPresident Kiir, in the meeting this afternoon [Saturday], was very grateful to President Lungu that he was intervening and that he must exert whatever efforts that Zambia can to try and help Mr Machar come to the negotiating table,â€ Mr Chanda said.
He said Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn are also involved in the mediation process.
Mr Chanda also said Zambia will host the 2022 AU summit after submitting a bid and that there has been no challenge yet.
He, however, said Zambiaâ€™s hosting of the 2022 AU summit is subject to the ratification of the Heads of State and Government summit, which closed on Sunday.
And President Lungu says the just-ended 24th African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government summit has given him an insight into the genuine desire by most African leaders to develop their respective countries and promote economic growth.
Speaking to journalists at Bole International Airport before departure to Zambia yesterday, President Lungu described his experience at the summit as the first close quarter contact with the AU leadership at the topmost.
Mr Lungu called on African countries to unite regionally and integrate development efforts.
â€œIsolated, Zambia will not go far. Zambia will have to tap into the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and see how we can benefit from the vast capacity and the resource that is available.
Human resource is not a problem, we have many competent people, let us integrate them and add value,â€ he said.
And Minister of Foreign Affairs Harry Kalaba said the AU has endorsed Zambiaâ€™s bid to host the 2022 Heads of State and Government summit.
â€œWe are happy as a country that we have been given an opportunity to host a summit of this magnitude and to bring Africa to Zambia,â€ Mr Kalaba said.
The minister also said Zambia has been selected to host the AU Committee of 10 meeting on the United Nations (UN) Security Council reforms in May this year.
â€œZambia will be hosting 10 Heads of State to spearhead the issue of the UN Security Council reforms to correct the historical injustice of Africa not having representation on the UN Security Council,â€ Mr Kalaba said.
The President was seen off by Mr Kalaba, Minister of Tourism and Arts Jean Kapata, Zambiaâ€™s Ambassador to Ethiopia Susan Sikaneta and senior government officials.
Meanwhile, President Lungu yesterday arrived home from Ethiopia where he had gone to attend the 24th Summit of the African Union (AU) held in Addis Ababa, reports JIMMY CHIBUYE.
Mr Lunguâ€™s presidential jet touched down at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport at 11:30 hours.
He was accompanied by his wife Esther, Mr Chanda and some senior government officials.
The President was received by Vice-President Inonge Wina, Minister of Finance Alexander Chikwanda, defence and service chiefs and Patriotic Front (PF) secretary-general Davies Chama.
President Lunguâ€™s trip to Ethiopia was his first international tour of duty after being elected Zambiaâ€™s sixth head of State.
He delivered his maiden speech at the AU and held several bilateral meetings.
JERRY MUNTHALI, Addis Ababa