Saturday, May 08, 2010

Rupiah faces criticism for attacking NGOs in Dar-es-salaam

Rupiah faces criticism for attacking NGOs in Dar-es-salaam
By Mwala Kalaluka
Sat 08 May 2010, 04:00 CAT

THE Southern African Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) yesterday described President Rupiah Banda’s statement that most African Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are formed for political causes, as dwarfed thinking.

And treasurer for the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) in Zambia, Fr Godfrey Bwalya has asked President Banda to apologise to Zambians and the rest of Africa over his statement that Europeans knew how retarded Africans are in terms of education.

Reacting to President Banda’s assertion during a debate at the just-ended World Economic Forum (WEF) in Dar-Es-salaam, Tanzania, that NGOs in Africa were all the time fighting governments under the guise of democracy, Habasonda said the statement was embarrassing to Zambia.

“It is very unfortunate that President Banda had to make this statement in a foreign country where many people attended and really made himself appear as though Zambian leaders do not understand the role of civil society and so we are very disappointed here in Zambia that our President could make such pronouncements,” Habasonda said.

“And now we understand why civil society organisations are being harassed because he thinks we all exist for a political cause when in fact, he knows what the NGOs do in this country.”

Habasonda said if President Banda were to ban NGOs operating in Zambia, he would note the difference.

“We find the remarks really off key and rather embarrassing to make in such a forum. The people who escorted President Banda should really have advised him before he made that statement because it just reflects on his dwarfed understanding of the whole concept,” Habasonda said.

“I think that the whole speech is an antithesis of what Zambia’s image pretends to be abroad.”

Habasonda said President Banda should not think that just because his government had NGOs it was ‘sponsoring’, the entire civil society was like that.

President Banda said during the debate that most NGOs in Africa were formed for political causes. He said being an old man, he was tolerant to this but that it was not all old leaders on the continent that were like him.

And Fr Mpundu said President Banda’s statement that Europeans knew how retarded Africans’ education was demeaning to Africans.

“The first impression to me was, was he misquoted or it is true? How can a leader try to position us at that level to be retarded people?” Fr Mpundu asked. “I think the President needs to apologise to the Zambian and African people.”

Fr Mpundu said there were many Zambians in the Diaspora who wondered how they would be perceived given President Banda’s statement.
Fr Mpundu also reminded President Banda to be careful so he does not make negative statements against NGOs.

President Banda was yesterday quoted in the Times of Zambia as having asked international and local NGOs in Africa to desist from unnecessarily criticising governments.

Speaking during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Dar-Es-Salaam, President Banda said it was retrogressive for Africa that numerous NGOs were all the times attacking serving heads of state.

The panel discussion was titled, “Africa: Towards One Voice?”
President Banda appeared on a panel discussion together with African Development Bank (ADB) president Donald Kaberuka, Tanzanian Prime Minister Ali Shein, South African Minister of Water and Energy Affairs Buyelwa Sonjica and United Nations (UN) Deputy Secretary-General Asha Migiro.

He also told panelists that since he became President, leaders of NGOs had attacked him on many occasions but despite the attacks, he had maintained high levels of tolerance.

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