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How Lungu lost his way

Publish date: 17 July 2017
Issue Number: 734
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: Zambia

Zambian President Edgar Lungu is not a dictator, and nor does he want to be. That’s his version, at least, and he’s sticking to it. ‘Zambia is the most accomplished democracy in this region or the whole of Africa. If this is dictatorship, there is no democracy in Africa,’ he told a press conference in Lusaka two weeks ago. However, Simon Allison notes that Lungu’s actions, however, tell a different story. In a Daily Maverick analysis, Allison notes that this year has seen him accrue more and more power at the expense of local media, civil society and opposition parties. ‘As any student of history will know, declaring a state of emergency, or the threat of one, is a favourite dictator’s tool. Given these worrying signs of Lungu’s growing authoritarianism, attention turns to what can be done to prevent him from turning into a fully fledged dictator. And if that really is his end goal, who is going to stop him? There is still some fight left in civil society, however, with several prominent institutions – including the Civil Society Constitution Agenda and the Law Association of Zambia – criticising the declaration of the threat of a state of emergency. Some of the country’s highly influential church groups have also voiced their disapproval. Clearly Lungu is not going to have it all his own way. However, given that his term in office runs until 2021, and given the special emergency powers he has arrogated to himself, it’s hard to see what his local critics can do to stop him. More levers of power are available to the international community. Zambia’s economy is in a rut, and the country remains heavily reliant on international partners for investment, aid and other forms of financing. But of these powers, few are speaking out.’

Full analysis on the Daily Maverick site