During his Monday courtesy call at State House, Sierra Leone’s former President, Ernest Bai Koroma, shared his deep peacebuilding and consolidation experience with the Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema who is the newly elected Zambia president. Ex-President Koroma is back in Zambia after his widely acclaimed leadership of the African Union’s Elections Observation Mission (AUEOM) in August 2021.

The polls were stiffly contested by the then incumbent president Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front (PF) party; and Hakainde Hichilema, the then leader of the main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND). There was considerable antagonism between the two leaders. Zambia was on tenterhooks with an exceedingly gloomy cloud of open post-elections violence hanging perilously over the southern African nation.

The AU had to shift gears from regular election observations and add ‘Preventive Diplomacy’, which was, for the first time, being deployed alongside an election observation mission, according to senior AU officials of the Zambia mission. Essentially, under the astute leadership and experience of President Koroma, the focus of the AU mission turned into full-blown mediation.

“There is nothing more important to national development than peace and stability. With these, ordinary people can go about their normal activities and businesses can flourish. One may not appreciate the value of peace and security until the reverse happens; for those of us who have experienced the effects of instability, we would do all we could to avert it,” said Ex-President Koroma under whose leadership Sierra Leone was reckoned by the Global Peace Index as the most peaceful country in West Africa and the third most peaceful in Africa.

Ex-President Koroma is back in Lusaka as head of the AU Zambia Elections Follow – Up Mission. During the meeting at State House, the AU head of mission expressed appreciation to president Hichilema “for receiving us at such a short notice; even when the meeting was slated for tomorrow, you brought it forward to show your faith in the AU and your commitment to the democratic process”.

He recalled to his host that the AU was in Zambia in August to observe the elections and that before they left; the AU presented a preliminary report. “We have come back to now present the final report of our key findings and recommendations,” stated the AU head of mission.

President Koroma went on to say that this was in keeping with the new thinking within the AU that “we would not merely observe elections and then abandon the country; we would have to stay engaged not only to follow up on progress based on recommendations, but also to continue to support its implementation process.”

The AU head of mission then assured President Hichilema of AU’s readiness to continue to assist the Government and people of Zambia in its pursuit of peace, stability, and democratic consolidation.

“On behalf of the Chairperson and the leadership of the AU, I would like to assure you and the people of Zambia that the AU stands ready to support Zambia’s quest for peacebuilding, stability and deepening of democracy “, he emphasized.

Ex-President Koroma also commended President Hichilema for his openness and determination to restore the hopes of Zambians. The peaceful and smooth political transition in Zambia was a clear demonstration that Africa is capable of managing political transitions. He also pointed out that Zambia is a shining example of how political transitions must be and that President Hichilema is responsible for ensuring that the democratic process is sustained.

Reacting, President Hichilema was very direct in expressing profound appreciation on his own name and on the behalf the Government and people of Zambia.

“Thank you for finding time for us even when you are so busy; we grateful for what you did for us pre, during and after the elections. You played a key role and in the presence of the media, for the attention of the general public, I hereby express my profound appreciation for the role of the AU but particularly, your leadership towards our smooth and peaceful transition.”

President Hichilema then said this: “Mr. President, please pass on this message to the broader AU leadership that our wish is that what you did in Zambia should be replicated in other African countries which are organizing elections.”

On the key findings and recommendations, President Hichilema said that it was helpful that the AU returned and presented the final report, and assured the AU that his government will implement its recommendations.

“We are determined not to allow others to be victims of what we suffered and AU has found a worthy partner in Zambia in the pursuit of democratic good governance, protection of human rights, peace and stability. We would therefore read the report and implement the recommendations,” Hichilema assured.