DOREEN NAWA, Lusaka
IT has been a long journey for a number of Zambians who were looking forward to the dialogue between President Lungu and the United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema.
Since 2016, the whole country has eagerly been waiting to hear when and where the dialogue between President Lungu and Mr Hichilema would be.
The aim of the dialogue is to foster reconciliation between the two political parties.
For over three years now, bishops, politicians, international dignitaries in the form of Baroness Scotland, including some prominent Zambians, have all been talking about the need for President Lungu and Mr Hichilema to meet, dialogue and reconcile.
Now that the two leaders have agreed to meet and forge a way forward towards reconciliation, this move has been received with gratitude.
Last week on Tuesday, the three Church mother bodies revealed that they facilitated a meeting between President Lungu and Hichilema on November 12 where the two leaders expressed unconditional support to an inclusive and church-led national dialogue and reconciliation process.
The Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops, Council of Churches in Zambia and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia stated that the “landmark meeting” was held in a cordial and friendly atmosphere and that the two leaders “addressed each other as brothers with great respect for each other”.
Veteran politician Vernon Mwaanga is happy with the progress towards reconciliation.
“President Edgar Lungu and UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema have demonstrated great maturity and have put the interests of the country above self. My faith in my country has been renewed upon learning of the private meeting on 12th November, 2018 between President Edgar Lungu and UPND president Hakainde Hichilema,” Dr Mwaanga says.
Dr Mwaanga says it has been his firmly held belief expressed directly to the two leaders that they needed to meet and discuss the many problems facing the country.
“By meeting under the watchful eye of the church mother bodies, they have demonstrated great maturity and put the interests of our country above self. They have made me proud of my country,” Dr Mwaanga says.
Dr Mwaanga says in commending both leaders for taking “this small step”, it was his fervent hope and prayer that they would meet more often going forward and begin to develop trust and confidence in each other.
He says the two leaders have also demonstrated leadership, which he hoped would be emulated by their officials and supporters, who must be made to understand that politics was not war, and that Zambia belongs to all Zambians.
“Even when we disagree on certain issues, we should do so in a respectful manner, without being disagreeable, devoid of hatred and ill temper. We have a great country and if this spirit demonstrated by our two leaders becomes the norm, then we can all work together to make our country even greater,” Dr Mwaanga says.
And the Southern Africa Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) has welcomed the decision by the two leaders to meet.
SACCORD executive director Boniface Cheembe says the two leaders’ decision to participate in the national dialogue process is pleasing for peacebuilding.
“The private meeting held by the two leaders at the start of the week makes this week a great one for peace as it starts the humanising process of the two leaders, which is key to their followers, too,” Mr Cheembe says.
Mr Cheembe says the private meeting underscores that when Zambia is faced with political troubles, its leaders tend to rise to the occasion and commit themselves to sit around the table and dialogue.
“SACCORD is elated by the development and we believe that the two leaders with such gestures will galvanise the nation and ensure that the national dialogue process agenda will successfully be addressed,” Mr Cheembe says.
Meanwhile, the Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CiSCA) is also pleased to learn that concerns that surrounded the national dialogue and reconciliation process have been resolved, resulting in stakeholders agreeing that the three church mother bodies will lead the process.
CiSCA chairperson Bishop John Mambo says this has been the prayer and hope of his organisation all along.
“The news is elating not only to CiSCA but to many Zambians. We are happy to also learn that President Edgar Lungu and opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema met ahead of the dialogue process,” Bishop Mambo says.
The clergy is hopeful that this will be an indication of the dawn of a new era in the political discourse that will lead to the much needed reconciliation, unity and co-existence in the nation, as well as commitment to upholding the rule of law.
“We urge all parties in the dialogue to avoid actions that may again delay or endanger the prospect of a successful dialogue. We will follow the dialogue process with interest and support national dialogue as the starting point to address the numerous political challenges that the country is currently facing,” Bishop Mambo says.
A political analyst, Alex Ng’oma, has also congratulated the two leaders for making an important step towards reuniting the country.
Dr Ng’oma says political followers of the two political parties (PF and UPND) should also follow their leaders’ decision to meet and bury their differences, too.
“As a country, we now have reached a point where there is light at the end of the tunnel. This means that the action by the two leaders to meet and dialogue will create investor confidence, and respect from international partners, too,” Dr Ng’oma says.
Dr Ng’oma is hopeful that once the dialogue is done, it will foster national development.
“I hope this will be a time for all parties involved not to keep record of any wrong. Let genuine and sincere forgiveness take place,” Dr Ng’oma says.
DOREEN NAWA, Lusaka