LUSAKA, Sept 23 (Reuters) – Zambia’s President Rupiah Banda conceded defeat on Friday to opposition leader Michael Sata and urged his supporters in Africa’s biggest copper producer to accept the results of elections peacefully.
The following are excerpts of Banda’s speech — a rare address calling for a democratic change in power in a region where autocrats have stayed in office for decades:
“The election campaign of 2011 is over. The people of Zambia have spoken and we must all listen. Some will be happy with what they have heard, others will not.
“The time now is for maturity, for composure and for compassion. To the victors, I say this: you have the right to celebrate but do so with a magnanimous heart. Enjoy the hour but remember that a term of government is for years.
“Remember that the next election will judge you also.
“Treat those who you have vanquished with the respect and humility that you would expect in your own hour of defeat.
“I know that all Zambians will expect such behaviour and I hope it will be delivered. Speaking for myself and my party, we will accept the results. We are a democratic party and we know no other way.”
“It is not for us to deny the Zambian people. We never rigged, we never cheated, we never knowingly abused state funds. We simply did what we thought was best for Zambia. I hope the next government will act likewise in years to come.
“Zambia deserves a decent democratic process. Indeed, Zambia must build on her past victories. Our independence was hard won, our democracy secured with blood.
“Zambia must not go backwards, we must all face the future and go forward as one nation. Not to do so would dishonour our history.
“To my party, to the MMD candidates who did not win, the lesson is simple. Next time we must try harder.
“We fought a good campaign. It was disciplined. I still believe we had a good message and we reached every part of the country.
“Did we become grey and lacking in ideas? Did we lose momentum? Our duty now is to go away and reflect on any mistakes we may have made and learn from them. If we do not, we do not deserve to contest power again.
“The Zambia we know today was built by an MMD government. We know our place in history and we know that we can come back to lead again in the future. A new leadership will be chosen, and that leadership will be from the younger generation.
“My generation , the generation of the independence struggle– must now give way to new ideas; ideas for the 21st century. From this defeat, a new, younger MMD will be re-born.
“Being President is hard work, it takes long hours of work. and because of it, I have not always been there for you. Yet, still you were there for me.
“Words cannot express the depth of my love for you all. All I ask is that my family continues to serve Zambia as I have sought to do.
“But my greatest thanks must go to the Zambian people. We may be a small country on the middle of Africa but we are a great nation. Serving you has been a pleasure and an honour. I wish I could have done more, I wish I had more time to give.
“Our potential is great. Our resources are impressive. I urge you all now to rally behind your new president.
“Yes, we may have different ideas but we both want the same thing – a better Zambia.
“Now is not the time for violence and retribution.
“Now is the time to unite and build tomorrow’s Zambia together. Only by working together can we achieve a more prosperous Zambia.
“In my years of retirement, I hope to watch Zambia grow. I genuinely want Zambia to flourish. We should all want Zambia to flourish. So, I congratulate Michael Sata on his victory.
“I have no ill feeling in my heart, there is no malice in my words. I wish him well in his years as president.
“I pray his policies will bear fruit.
“But now it is time for me to step aside. Now is the time for a new leader. My time is done. It is time for me to say ‘good bye’.
“May God watch over the Zambian people and may he bless our beautiful nation.”
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