President Edgar Lungu has been accused of endangering the country’s democracy and plotting a dictatorship by Zambia’s main opposition party. This comes after he invoked emergency powers under the constitution.
Allegations arose last week that opposition parties were behind a string of arson attacks intended to create ‘terror and panic’. This has led Lungu to giving police increased powers of arrest and detention, causing the allegations from the opposition parties.
Lungu has denied that he was attempting to establish a dictatorship, accusing his rivals of simply trying to overturn last year’s election results.
Vice-president for the opposition party United Party for National Development (UPND) Geoffrey Mwamba, said that the emergency decree ‘constitutes abuse of power designed to silence his critics and kill democracy’.
He said: ‘it is clear that (Lungu’s) actions are premeditated and designed to strengthen the hand of dictatorship’. Mwamba has also denied any involvement by UPND in the fires.
Tensions have been rising across Zambia recently due to the fires, and last year’s election was marred by clashes between rival party supporters. This comes after relative stability in Zambia since its first multi-party election in 1991. Since the 2016 election however, where Lungu’s party Patriotic Front narrowly beat UPND, there have been allegations from UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema that the election was rigged.
Hichilema himself has been in detention on treason charges since April after his convoy allegedly refused to give way to the presidential motorcade.
Criticisms of Lungu have come not only from Mwamba but also from Church leaders. Bishop Simon Chihana has said that ‘Lungu is only thinking about his continued hold on to power. He is not concerned about the well-being of Zambia’.