By OLIVER SAMBOKO
PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema says his administration inherited a very difficult situation and that at the time of holding the last general election, the country was at the brink of economic collapse due to corruption in the previous regime.
Addressing the EU parliament yesterday, Mr Hichilema also said human rights were not respected by the previous administration which turned institutions meant to provide oversight into weapons to oppress people’s rights.
He said freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association were curtailed by the Patriotic Front government and that intuitions designed to safeguard checks and balances where compromised and reduced to mere instruments of dominance for those who held power.
President Hichilema also alleged that during the previous government, corruption and excessive greed by public officers reigned supreme and they did not allow anyone to stand in their way to get what they wanted yet they were supposed to be servants of the people.
“Under the previous government, the order of the day was basically to convert public assets into private hands at the expense of the citizens,” he said.
He thanked the EU for standing with him and supporting the upholding of human rights when he and others were arrested for treason by the PF regime.
President Hichilema also paid special tribute to the country’s youth for turning up in big numbers during last year’s general election that led to change of government.
He said the European Union walked with Zambia at a time the country was facing very difficult circumstances.
Mr Hichilema said the challenge for his administration is to lay a strong foundation that will allow the country achieve economic prosperity for the current and future generations.
He said the UPND government is investing in the youth as they hold the key to achieving development.
President Hichilema said the government will also implement decentralisation and that the increase in the CDF allocation is aimed at allowing the grassroots to decide on their own which development projects are relevant to their needs.
He said his administration will continue working with the EU as a mutual partner in unlocking the country’s economic potential for the benefit of both parties.
Meanwhile Mr Hichilema has arrived in Kigali ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
The Commonwealth of Nations was a very valuable development partner and a great collaborator in the pursuit of the country’s democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights and civil liberties.
He said the 54 member state Commonwealth with a population of 2.5 billion and a collective Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimated at US$13 trillion, was undoubtedly an organisation that cannot be underestimated by a country like ours that is seeking for business partnerships to leverage our economy through trade and investment portfolios.