‘Democracy’ summit a US hypocritical stunt, Zambia sucked in

SPEAKING at a recently-concluded pro-democracy forum held in Beijing, China, Zambian opposition leader, Fred Mmembe, aptly pointed out how it is hypocritical for the United States (US) to be leading the so-called Global Democracy Summit.

To add to the double standards that America has displayed over the years, purporting to be the champions of democracy and human rights globally on one hand and perpetrating injustices on the other, it is ironic that some countries that are victims of the imperialism by the US and its allies have fallen victim to this deceit and are now cronies of successive American governments.

Mmembe’s country is among these nations, hence it has come under criticism for its co-hosting of the conference with US and Costa Rica, Netherlands and Republic of Korea.

The summit, and for Zambia to be a part of it, is a slap in the face for the country and the continent that suffered, and continues contending with, human rights violations perpetrated by America, dating back to the 16th century at the height of the slave trade, and ongoing regime change agenda in African countries.

Mmembe’s sentiments at the just-concluded second International Forum on Democracy: Shared Human Values, held in Beijing China, are a reminder how it is cunning for the US to lead the above-mentioned summit on democracy.

“They (US) have come to Southern Africa to teach us democracy,” he said in a keynote teeming with irony.

Miguel Cardona, US Secretary of Education, will lead the American delegation to Zambia for the summit.

“A country that was opposed to our liberation, a country that supported colonial regimes, the apartheid regime in South Africa, the white racist minority in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, the Portuguese colonial government in Mozambique, Angola, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, today is coming to Africa to teach us about democracy,” Mmembe lamented.

The leader of the Socialist Party of Zambia also pointed out how while purporting to be a beacon for peace had through its neocolonial tendencies abetted the violent toppling of some governments in Africa and other parts of the world.

“A country that has toppled many governments in Africa, that has led so many coups in Africa and other parts of the world, a country that has killed so many leaders in Africa and other parts of the world, the killers of Patrice Lumumba (DR Congo), those who toppled Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), those who killed Muammar Gaddafi (Libya), today is coming to teach us about democracy.”

Mmembe added how two-faced it is that the United States, a country accused of using brutal force, enslavement of other human beings, the humiliation and exploitation of Africans and the plunder of the continent could be at the forefront of lecturing Africa about democracy.

“That is the arrogance…imperialist arrogance…the racist arrogance that we are subjected to,” he said.

“If you have no respect for the sovereignty of other nations, you cannot claim to be a champion of democracy.”

According to the US Department of State, the Summit for Democracy is “a flagship presidential initiative that illustrates the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to putting democracy and human rights at the heart of US foreign policy.”

The administration of President Joe Biden (deputised by Kamala Harris), in power since 2021, notes the summit has three pillars of focus, namely strengthening democracy and defending against authoritarianism, addressing and fighting corruption as well as promoting respect for human rights.

Biden convened the first summit, held virtually, on December 9 and 10, 2021.

Participating governments are said to have pledged to support domestic and international commitments in our shared push to bolster democracy from local to global levels.

The second Summit for Democracy will assemble world leaders in a virtual, plenary format, followed by gatherings in each of our countries with representatives from government, civil society and the private sector.

Ahead of the summit, the Biden government stated, “Democracy and human rights are under threat around the world.”

Among other outlets, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is denounced as one of the US government’s main proponents for regime change, as victim countries are accused of violating democracy.

It is cited in the financing of a number of violent revolutions over the decades, including the Arab Spring that afflicted a number of countries in the early 2010s. 

Its notoriety to interfere in domestic affairs of developing countries runs wide.

This is a typical case by the US in seeing a speck in its rival’s eye but not noticing the log in its own eye.

Critics point out that America’s own democracy is in tatters, indicating there is more to the US’ double standards on democracy than through years of human rights violations and imperialism.

In a report titled “The State of Democracy in the United States: 2022”, the China Ministry of Foreign Affairs detailed how the vicious cycle of democratic pretensions, dysfunctional politics and a divided society continued in the US. 

“Problems such as money politics, identity politics, social rifts and the gulf between the rich and poor worsened, the report read.

“The maladies afflicting American democracy deeply infected the cells of US politics and society, and further revealed US governance failure and institutional defects.”

America is also battling unprecedented gun violence. African-Americans have also borne the brunt of murder at the hands of law enforcers.

China highlighted that despite mounting problems at home, the US continued to “behave with a sense of superiority, point fingers at others, usurp the role of a ‘lecturer of democracy’.”

The US has since 2022 been accusing Chinese president, Xi Jinping, of human rights violations, among others trying to isolate Taiwan as well as holding back its development.

Washington insists Jinping was behind some serious human rights violations that might amount to ‘crimes against humanity.’

This includes the said the crackdown on Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups.

China’s alleged sweeping of millions of people from the minority groups into detention camps where it is alleged Chinese security tortured, sexually assaulted and forced to abandon their language and religion is also cited.

All the claims have been dismissed as groundless as the US could not provide any concrete evidence. It smacks of a smear campaign on Jinping’s human rights record.

The US State Department spokesperson, Ned Price, earlier this week claimed Jinping said Washington wanted to live in harmony with China and the rest of the world.

Price denied his country would want to suppress the rise of China.

Another edition of the so-called Summit for Democracy is thus dismissed as a ruse to check how various countries had performed on meeting US standards for democracy and to issue new orders.

“Be it high-sounding rhetoric or maneuvers driven by hidden agenda, none can hide the real designs of the US — to maintain its hegemony by playing bloc politics and using democracy as a tool for political ends.”

As the summit programme indicates, the March 29-30 summit will feature the Russia-Ukraine war, in which the US and its allies, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), have taken the side of Ukraine and critical of countries that have taken a non-aligned approach to the conflict.

Africa’s has largely taken that approach and defied pressure to condemn Russia.

At a time when African countries were under the burden of colonialism and the US was complicit, Russia and China helped the oppressed countries during their liberation wars.

Hundreds of guests from more than 100 countries and regions across the globe attended the International Forum on Democracy: Shared Human Values in Beijing.

China has pledged to “stand ready to strengthen exchanges and mutual learning with other countries on the issue of democracy, advocate humanity’s common values of peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom, promote greater democracy in international relations, and make new and greater contributions to human progress.”

Mmembe lauded how China has in its ascension as potentially the biggest economy in the world without colonizing or plundering and country or without subjugating any people.

“This is a country developing with maximum respect for others, for their history and cultures,” he said of the Asian global powerhouse.

“What democracy can the US government really promote or advance for an African country?” Mmembe rhetorically asked this week.

“How many of our elected leaders and governments has the US toppled and killed? What democracy can the US really teach us or advance in our poor countries?” he reiterated.

It is in that regard that the new Zambian government of President Haikande Hichilema has come under immense criticism for supporting the US to hold such the Democracy Summit in the Southern African nation, which itself suffered decades of colonialism by American ally, Britain.

It earned recognition among Africa for attaining independence, in 1964, and helping other countries in Southern Africa attain their freedom.

Despite bombardment by the imperialist, the government of Kenneth Kaunda was unrelenting in its support of liberation movements from Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Zambia enabled the liberators to establish military bases, training camps and refugee centres.

Thus, the move by the new government to cosy up to the US since businessman Hichilema and his United Party for National Development (UPND) came to power in 2021, is denounced as a betrayal of the ideals of the Zambia’s hard-won freedom and that of other nations from the colonialists.

“We urge Mr Hichilema to retreat from being used to strip Zambia and our people of the anti-imperialist badge of honour that we have worn since independence. What democracy is UPND advancing or promoting with the US? Mmembe quipped.

While Africa, and most vocally Southern Africa, has spoken out against the attempts by the US to pressurize the continent into taking the West’s side against Russia, Zambia has defied this non-aligned stance.

This is, by extension, in support of the US’ Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act.

Last year, Zambia voted in favour of the condemnation of Russia at the United Nations. It was somehow unprecedented for a country that owes its liberation to the likes of Russia to vote in line with the US and its allies.

Zambia’s swiftly developing ties with the US has also come in the form of the setting up of the American African Command Centre (AFRICOM) in the Southern African country.

There is resistance in the continent against the establishment of these centres, raising the possibility of the isolation of Zambia by fellow African countries.

“Implications are that we are going to be diplomatically isolated,” Cosmas Musumali, General Secretary of the opposition Socialist Party (SP), warned at a media briefing.

He cautioned that Zambia’s long revered status as a liberator was under threat.

Another dent in that status is the involvement of the beleaguered former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in Zambian politics through his Institute for Global Change, a nongovernmental organisation said to support political leaders and governments build open, inclusive and prosperous societies in a global world.

“Former British Prime Minister and assistant to US President George Bush Jr over the illegal invasion of Iraq, one Tony Blair, a war criminal, is Hakainde Hichilema’s Guru on government service delivery,” said analyst Aswell Banda.

The former premier has survived prosecution for his role in the 2003 Iraq war when the US led the invasion of Iraq, to destroy purported weapons of mass destruction.

Blair’s government, alongside the US, at the turn of the millennium also slapped sanctions that have wrecked the economy of Zambia’s southern neighbor, Zimbabwe, after the latter repossessed land that the white minority benefitted from colonial settlers.

The copper-rich Zambia was, because of its mineral wealth, itself colonised by the British from 1888, for a period of 76 years.

At the Democracy Summit, Hichilema is to host a plenary on “Democracy Delivering Strong Institutions.”

He will also deliver the opening remarks on a session exploring “Free, Fair, and Transparent Elections as the Foundation of Democratic Governance.”

Ahead of the summit, organizers approved three commitments approved by Zambia, bordering on ensuring a free media, restoring the rule of law by protecting freedoms of assembly and association as well as improving the independence and transparency of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ).

Coincidentally, Zambia has been denounced as sliding into authoritarianism under Hichilema and the UPND.

The prevailing atmosphere is contrary to the assertion by the US to continue engaging with Summit participants and other governments around the world to counter democratic backsliding, promote respect for human rights and fight corruption.

The main opposition Patriotic Front (PF), which lost power to UPND at the last general elections, has been at the receiving end of what critics denounce as a crackdown against the opposition, guised as a crusade against corruption.
The family of the immediate past president, Edgar Lungu, has not been spared the clampdown.

Opposition parties have decried how government agencies have been filled with pro-ruling party officials.

“Similarly, the rule of law is under assault as seen where law enforcement agencies have been turned into weapons against citizens and institutions such the Auditor General’s office,” Given Lubinda, PF Vice President, said.

Opposition parties are also worried the American government is influencing Zambia to uphold the rights of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or those questioning their gender identity or sexual orientation), an intersex community.

To illustrate the increasingly authoritarian rule of the new government, Hichilema’s administration vowed to crack down on protestors opposed to the hosting of the summit and the visit by Harris.

Jack Mwiimbu, Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, accused the would-be protesters of attempts to “embarrass” the head of state and the nation.

“Therefore, it is not only mischievous but criminal also to incite people to demonstrate against the proceedings of the two events,” he stated.

“Our security wings are on high alert to ensure that any lawbreakers are dealt with accordingly and ensure the safety of our visitors.”

Minister of Justice, Mulambo Haimbe, claimed the hosting of the Democracy Summit will improve Zambia’s democratic credentials.

“Zambia has in the last one year continued to climb on the global democratic ladder owing to the many scores achieved,” he stated.

– CAJ News

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