Zambia's new president pledged Sunday that under his rule, government critics will be safe from state persecution.
“Arresting anyone with divergent views can be misconstrued to shielding inadequacies by the government which we are confident of fixing,” Hakainde Hichilema, just two weeks in office, said at the State House in the capital Lusaka.
Hichilema, who beat his predecessor Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front (PF) in the Aug. 12 general election, said his United Party for National Development (UPND) alliance government would not muzzle any citizen on trumped up or politically motivated charges.
His stance has been perceived as unique for an African leader, especially since Hichilema was arrested 15 times during Lungu’s seven-year rule, including in 2017 on politically motivated treason charges.
Hichilema, however, said he was elected to office not for reasons of vengeance but to deliver a better nation for all.
He said poverty, hunger, joblessness and a lack of business opportunities for the people were more of his enemies than those perceived to be political enemies.
Later, acting as commander in chief of the armed forces, Hichilema also announced changes to the country’s military brass that he said would pave the way for a new era.
He told reporters that the new commanders should restore the rule of law and respect the fundamental freedoms and rights of all citizens and pledged more changes this week.
The changes include the army and air force chief, national service commander and inspector general of police.