Zambia has been diplomaticaly isolated in region and international community, former foreign affairs minister Kabinga Pande has observed.
As a result there is growing concern that Zambia’s diplomatic relations with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the international community have been fractured.
Mr Pande stated that it was worrying that no president from SADC has ever visited Zambia since President Michael Sata and the PF got into government apart from Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe who only got to Livingstone.
He said no foreign Head of State has been to Lusaka from the time the PF formed government and that there was need for those in leadership to explain to Zambians why foreign Presidents were seemingly shunning or reluctant to visit the country.
Mr Pande said President Sata has not visited any country in SADC nor has any president in the region found it diplomatically necessary to come to Lusaka for joint permanent meetings which were held so often when the MMD under late presidents Frederick Chiluba, Levy Mwanawasa and the immediate past president Rupiah Banda were heading the country.
He said it was important for President Sata to create an environment where his follow leaders in the region would be comfortable to interact with him so that they could be meeting frequently to share their common and diverse challenges.
“You judge your relationship with your neighbours by the way you relate with them and how frequently you meet and interact. We have not seen our President visit fellow leaders in the SADC region and there is a growing worry that Zambia’s diplomatic relations may have been fractured and that we are getting isolated. Government should not just say our diplomatic relations with the region and the international community is warm. We want these relationships to be visible and this should take President Sata frequently having what we call Joint Permanent Meetings with other Head of States,” Mr Pande said.
“Mr Pande said that Zambians had been wondering why events such as the Agriculture and Commercial Show and the International Trade Fair which were being officiated by foreign Presidents were now being opened by ministers.
He said the diplomatic tradition had been that such international events were expected to be graced by foreign presidents because that was giving the country an opportunity to market itself to other countries.
He said the events were also meant to strengthen diplomatic interaction between countries apart from promoting economic development of the countries.
Mr Pande was however hopeful that the new Minister of Foreign Affairs Hary Kalaba was going to work hard to mend the diplomatic relations with the region and the international community.
When Contacted for a comment, Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Kalaba said he was in a meeting with Vice-President Guy Scott and asked this reporter to call him later in the day.
He said that there was a strong feeling that the PF government had damaged the warm diplomatic relations Zambia has had since independence with its neighbours and that it was important for the ministry of foreign affairs to correct that perception.
Mr Pande said there was need for the Patriotic Front (PF) government to re-establish and recreate diplomatic relations with neighbouring countries because Zambia being a landlocked country could not afford to sour its relations with the region for any reason.