The head of the Zambian delegation Minister of Finance Edith Nawakwi at the end of the May 1998 Consultative Group meeting pledged that her government "wants a clean and good human rights record. We were a leader in the liberation struggles of southern Africa. We want to be a leader on human rights."
In recent months these promising words have been contradicted by a worrying trend in harassment of the opposition and the independent media. The government's track record on respect of human rights since the last Consultative Group meeting has shown that the attaching of clear benchmarks on human rights can encourage improvements (such as the ratification of the Convention against Torture) but that human rights remain generally poorly respected in Zambia and that bilateral donors should continue to place human rights conditions on their balance of payments support packages to the Zambian government in order to clearly signal their concern about continued human rights abuses and through these benchmarks encourage the government to make further improvements in its respect for human rights.
Zambia, once promoted as a model for democracy in Africa, has been distinguished by a pattern of on going human rights abuses by government officials against the independent media and the opposition in the wake of a military coup attempt on October 28, 1997 when soldiers seized the national radio station in the government's Mass Media Complex.(1) A few hours later Zambia army commandos stormed the complex, regained control, and captured the rebel soldiers. The following day, a state of emergency was declared by President Chiluba and a crackdown ensued on suspected accomplices in the coup attempt and leaders of the legal opposition. A number of opposition politicians were targeted, including Zambia Democratic Congress (ZDC) leader Dean Mung'omba and, on December 25, ex-president and United National Independence Party (UNIP) leader Kenneth Kaunda.(2)