The World Today for August 12, 2021



A Storm Is Brewing

Zambian President Edgar Lungu deployed the army after clashes between members of his ruling Patriotic Front and the opposition United Party for National Development resulted in the deaths of two Patriotic Front supporters in the capital of Lusaka. Assailants hacked the victims to death with machetes, Al Jazeera reported.

“Maintaining law and order is a daily chore of the police but sometimes they need help from other security wings,” said Lungu.

The violence reflected the unstable climate in the southern African country in the run-up to a presidential election on Aug. 12 that pits Lungu against his nemesis, UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema.

The race is tight. Lungu narrowly defeated Hichilema in the last presidential election in 2015. Food costs and unemployment have risen under Lungu’s watch, however, eroding his support in recent years. His detractors also say he overspent on infrastructure, causing Africa’s second-largest copper supplier to go into debt default.

“I can’t support thieves, we have suffered because of them,” said Josephine Nakazwe, a 23-year-old cellphone vendor in Lusaka, in an interview with Agence France-Presse.

Zambia has long been a relatively stable country in the region. But that might be coming to an end: Critics say Lungu is turning to dirty tricks to win the election that could cause tensions to boil over.

Lungu’s deployment of the military will intimidate voters and give him more power to suppress turnout, Africa Program Director Judd Devermont of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told CNN.

Meanwhile, officials banned the UPND from campaigning in the Kanyama neighborhood where the Patriotic Front supporters died. Kanyama coincidentally has the most registered voters in the country, according to Bloomberg. The government has also restricted some campaigning practices due to Covid-19, potentially stopping the spread of the virus but also potentially stymying political change.

The stage is set for the country’s “democratic decline,” warned the Council on Foreign Relations in a blog post. Zambia’s Catholic bishops also released a statement imploring their flocks to refrain from violence and hatred toward their neighbors based on their political persuasions, the Vatican News reported.

Zambia is applying for a $13 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund to stabilize its economy. Copper sales will help pay off that bill, British think tank Chatham House wrote. While lucrative and vital to the country’s economy, mining is also a dangerous and polluting industry that the next Zambian president needs to clean up, added Human Rights Watch.

Whoever becomes Zambian president will have a chance to calm the storm or reap the whirlwind.

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