The Zambian government led by President Edgar Lungu expelled Cuban Ambassador to Zambia Nelson Pages and deported nine foreign delegates in connection with the launch of Socialist Party of Zambia (SPZ).
The decision has raised many eyebrows accusing the government of attempting to silence the newly formed opposition. The government's spokesperson claimed that Nelson Pages violated the diplomatic practices of not interfering in domestics politics of the country by attending the lunch.
At the same time is interesting that the it was Lunga’s Patriotic Front which invited the American Ambassador to Zambia, Mark Storella to attended 2011 Mulungushi Rock convention of the party.
The crackdown came after the Cuban envoy attended the SPZ’s launch convention where former journalist Fred M’membe was declared as its presidential candidate. It is considered that M’membe would be a strong contender against the Lungu’s Patriotic Front government in 2021.
M’membe was the founder of now defunct The Post Newspaper, one of the few independent newspapers, which was known for its critical articles and editorials. The 2016 elections, in which Lunga was re-elected was marred by series of violence after government targeted The Post and suspended its operations claiming tax evasion. The closure of the offices of M’membe’s newspaper was allegedly done to silence the paper by Lungu, who was highly criticised for using intimidation and force as weapons to gain voters.
Apart from the expulsion of Cuban ambassador, nine international delegates, including journalists and members of political parties were deported back from the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (KKIA).
The deported delegates were from Ghana, South Africa, Burkina Faso and Cape Verde.
The president of the Burkinabé Sankarist party, Benewende Sankara, first vice president of the Burkinabe national assembly was turned back from the airport by police, despite carrying a diplomatic passport.
The Sankarist Party spokesperson in a solidarity message said, “we must fight for these puppet regimes to disappear from Africa. But we remain in solidarity with the struggles of our comrades in Zambia”.
Socialist Party spokesperson Father Richard Luonde condemning the government repression said that the deportation is a sign of cowardice and desperation by the Patriotic Front government.
Vernon Mwaanga, veteran politician and diplomat called the expulsion decision as “ill advised, extreme and inconsistent with what happened in the past.”