THIS week, Zambia hosts the African leg of the Summit for Democracy, one of the highest profile events to come to Lusaka for many years. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will speak at the virtual plenary session, chaired by President Hakainde Hichilema, on how democracy delivers strong institutions.
Democracy is first and foremost about legitimate government – where the power to lead and govern is freely given and not the result of coercion or force.Fundamentally, it is mutual respect for civil and human rights that we associate with democracies. The right to freedom of speech, media and other civic freedoms, and the protection by law of the l e s s powerful from those more powerful.
Zambia enjoys the honour of hosting this week because it is part of the global family of democracies, with a legitimate government elected freely and without coercion. Power was given by the people to the current president and his party, and the transition was peaceful. The outgoing president enjoys his rights as a Zambian citizen – rights that are protected by the Zambian constitution.
Democracy cannot be taken for granted. In other countries we see authoritarian approaches with little regard for the rights of individuals; where maintaining power is a cynical end in itself, whatever the cost. This is done through the suppression of rights and freedoms – the exact opposite of democracies.
None of us can rest on our laurels. No country is the perfect democracy. But the choice should always be to commit to common values enshrined in the United Nations Charter; to respectfundamental freedoms; to uphold international law; to protect the rights of all, including minorities, marginalised groups, and the most vulnerable.The UK, Zambia and the other countries attending the Summit for Democracy share and cherish these values. It is our mission to protect them at home and abroad, and stand together against injustice.
This is what underpins the strong UK-Zambia partnership. We will continue to support democracy in Zambia across our broad cooperation on energy, jobs, education, security, anti-corruption, health, climate change,and poverty reduction.
The author is UK HIGH COMMISSIONER TO ZAMBIA