By KENNEDY LIMWANYA
THE DAY PF STOPPED RB FROM FLYING OUT
. . . Edgar Lungu was acting president
ONE month before, we had been to Nairobi, Kenya, for an election observation mission during that country’s 2013 presidential and parliamentary elections.
Former United States president Jimmy Carter had appointed former Zambian president Rupiah Banda co-leader of the Carter Center election observation mission in Kenya.
Mr Banda would co-lead a 50-member team with Professor John Stremleau, the Carter Center vice-president for peace programmes.
While the Zambian High Commission in Nairobi had, as previously, shunned Mr Banda, the Kenyan government and the Carter Center had provided all logistics for him.
By the way, when we arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, there was a diplomatic gaffe committed by the Zambian High Commission officials which left the Patriotic Front (PF) government embarrassed.
I will reveal the details of this brief diplomatic fallout in due course.
While in Kenya, Mr Banda would meet some opposition presidential candidates, including Raila Odinga and Peter Kenneth.
He would also be the keynote speaker at a pre-election international conference at the Kenyatta University School of Law.
The Kenyan elections had taken place on March 4, 2013 and that country’s incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta had retained his seat.
After successfully carrying out the observation mission in Nairobi, we had returned to Lusaka on March 7, 2013.
Eight days later, on March 15, 2013, the PF government lifted Mr Banda’s immunity against prosecution.
This was just under 18 months after Mr Banda had lost the September 2011 presidential election to the PF’s Michael Sata.
Slightly over a year earlier, when the PF was pushing for the lifting of Mr Banda’s immunity, he had warned them that they were setting a bad precedent for future presidents.
At the time Mr Banda’s immunity was being lifted, I was deputy administrative assistant in the Office of the Fourth President.
The PF were really in a hurry to prosecute Mr Banda as, only 10 days later, on March 25, 2013, he was charged and arrested.
Following Mr Banda’s arrest, he had surrendered his passport to the directorate of public prosecutions as part of his bond conditions.
The Kenyan government would later invite Mr Banda to attend President-elect Kenyatta’s inauguration on April 9, 2023.
When the invitation came, we, in the Office of the Fourth President, wrote to State House to inform President Sata about it.
Secondly, we wrote to Cabinet Office for authority for Mr Banda’s aides to travel.
In the same vein, Mr Banda’s lawyers wrote to the DPP, requesting for the release of Mr Banda’s passport.
The DPP could not release the passport and was only compelled to do so through a court order.
Around 09:00 hours, on April 9, 2013, I and some colleagues from our office arrived at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport.
After a while, Mr and Mrs Thandiwe Banda arrived.
We were ready for the trip aboard Kenya Airways.
But was the government ready?
Zambia’s acting president at the time was Home Affairs minister Edgar Lungu as president Sata was in China.
As we were about to check in, what humiliation the former president suffered!
The immigration officers at the airport, whose department fell under Mr Lungu’s Ministry of Home Affairs, informed us that they had been instructed not to allow Mr Banda to fly out.
What would we do but return home?
Less than two months later, on the morning of June 6, 2013, we were back at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport to see Mr Banda off to Johannesburg, South Africa, for the 2013 African Presidential Roundtable at the invitation of the Boston University African Presidential Center.
We could only watch as the South African Airways plane which Mr Banda was supposed to board was taking off.
Immigration officers, under Mr Lungu’s watch as Home Affairs minister, had blocked him from leaving Zambia.
That was despite a Lusaka High Court order allowing him to travel.
Just a peek into history.