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Zambian Presidential Candidate Courts Israel

An exclusive interview with Dr. Saviour Chishimba, who seeks to reestablish full ties with the Jewish state and open his country to foreign investment.

by
Stephanie L. Freid

Bio

January 17, 2010 - 12:00 am
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If you’re a promising young politician living on a continent rapidly shifting towards Islam, touting a pro-Israel stance isn’t the best public foot to put forward when looking to win an election.

But Zambian presidential hopeful Dr. Saviour Chishimba is putting caution aside as he kicks off his 2011 election campaign.   He’s decrying Islamic terrorism — not a tough principle to support in the wake of the recent U.S. air scare and fear surrounding the current era of urban warfare — and he’s specifically targeting Hamas-sponsored attacks against Israel. In fact, Chishimba is building an election platform that includes promoting reinstatement of full Israel-Zambia ties cut in 1973 and partially reestablished earlier this decade.

A member of Zambia’s royal family and the country’s majority Bemba tribe, Chishimba hails from a legacy of politickers and freedom fighters, including relatives who fostered the country’s breakaway independence from Rhodesia in 1964.

Zambia’s political history has been sprinkled with corruption and cronyism, and 36-year-old Chishimba, a former MP and current leader of the United Progressive People’s Party, sees himself as the gateway to the future, the new face of hope, and the pathfinder of global relations.

Said Chishimba over a cup of hot tea with fresh mint in a Tel Aviv restaurant earlier this month: “The current leadership stands for outdated politics. It’s time to form international contacts with bodies and leaders who have a broader understanding of business and democracy. Like parliamentarians in the UK and business leaders in the U.S., I want to form different types of networks and get away from the old ways of thinking.”

What Chishimba specifically means is that he will weaken ties with Iran, and specifically Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. This currently prompt eyebrow-raising over the African country’s covert uranium trade.

“A pro-Iran, anti-Israel regime in Zambia is very dangerous,” Chishimba remarked. “Iran is determined to wipe Israel off the map and that can only be done with nuclear capability. Facilitating transport of uranium to Iran is very, very dangerous.” Despite a 2008 law implemented to control uranium mining and export, Zambia continues doing business with Iran.

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