By Staff Reporter
The Zambian government has expelled Cuban Ambassador to Zambia Nelson Pages for attending the official launch of an opposition Socialist Party.
But veteran diplomat and politician Vernon Mwaanga has described the decision as an overreaction.
Ambassador Pages who only presented his credentials on Thursday later attended the launch of the Socialist Party on Saturday.
Announcing the decision, President Edgar Lungu’s spokesperson Amos Chanda accused Ambassador Pages of breaching diplomatic practice.
This is notwithstanding the fact that the ruling Patriotic Front when in opposition in July 2011 invited then US ambassador to Zambia Mark Storella to their congress in Kabwe.
And the government of the day under Rupiah Banda did not have an issue with that.
“The President has directed that the Cuban Ambassador be recalled. The Foreign Ministry must make all procedures, to effect all the procedures today to start the process of the recall of the Cuban Ambassador. That is, the sending state must recall the Cuban Ambassador for behavior unbecoming of a diplomat. This relates to his involvement in partisan politics which is totally in contravention of established diplomatic practice,” Chanda told journalists in Lusaka on Sunday.
“It is quite extraordinary that of all people the Cuban Ambassador himself knows that in Cuba the opposition is not just resented, it is totally absent. The Cuban Ambassador attended a party function and announced at that party function that he will support the opposition party that has been announced, the Socialist Party. He wished them well and went further to announce that they have his support. That contravenes the established diplomatic practice. An Ambassador is accredited to the government of the Republic of Zambia. He’s never accredited to any political party, not even the ruling party. He cannot be accredited to the opposition in this case.”
But Mwaanga said he thought the news about the expulsion was a joke.
“When I first heard about the expulsion from the country of the Cuban Ambassador, for attending the launch of the Socialist Party and for the general public remarks of support, attributed to him, I thought it was a 1st April fools day joke,” said Mwaanga in a statement Sunday.
“This decision is ill advised, extreme and inconsistent with what happened in the Past. Just in case memories have conveniently faded, in 2011 when PF held its Convention at Mulungushi Rock, they formally invited the then American Ambassador to Zambia, Mark Storella to attend, accompanied by a political affairs officer from the US embassy and while there, he announced that the United States of America, supports democratic developments, when ever they occur. I was then a member of the MMD government of then President Rupiah Banda and no issue was made of Ambassador Storella’s attendance or remarks he made there.”
Mwaanga advised that the government should have just summoned the Ambassador and warned him.
He stated that the decision did not augur well for the country’s relations with Cuba, a country which had been supportive of Zambia in good and bad times.