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Reports on Ethnic Relations  /  Rapports sur les relations éthniques  

The following section is mainly consisted of part, full or summaries of articles taken from newspapers.
La section suivante est essentiellement constituée d'exraits, de la totalité ou de résumés d'articles issues de journaux .



02 / 25 / 2003

IRIN 

The Article:
"Focus on splits in MMD over Chiluba's arrest"

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

Splits have deepened within Zambia's ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) over the arrest of former president Frederick Chiluba, charged this week with more than 60 counts of theft and abuse of office.

The divisions have adopted a worrying regional flavour, analysts said, potentially undermining the government of President Levy Mwanawasa and his reformist agenda.

Legislators in support of Chiluba, mainly from his northern Luapula province, have threatened to resign en-masse from the MMD in order to force a leadership crisis.

Relations have soured between Mwanawasa's supporters and those in Chiluba's camp since July last year when Mwanawasa, as part of an anti-corruption drive, asked parliament to lift Chiluba's immunity from prosecution. The Supreme Court ruled against Chiluba's appeal last week, clearing the way for his arrest on charges of "theft by a public servant".

"I think these [internal fights] will greatly harm the MMD and the entire nation if not well handled," Fred Mutesa, an analyst from the University of Zambia's Department of Development Studies told IRIN.

"Chiluba played populist politics with money, which he used to buy the rank and file, while the current regime plays the politics of distancing itself from the rank and file and does not flash money the way Chiluba did. Those that benefited from Chiluba will not give up without a fight, and while the fight goes on, economic and social programmes will suffer," Mutesa predicted.

Following the Supreme Court's landmark verdict, MMD national party chairman Chitalu Sampa said a "dark page" had been opened in the party's history. "We are very sad about this development as members of the MMD, this will definitely create divisions in the party," he warned.

A quick response was made by Vice-President Enoch Kavindele in a national radio and television address.

"We have heard rumours that there are some members of parliament from Luapula province who want to resign from the MMD. I would like to warn them that even if they resign, they will not create a leadership crisis because President Mwanawasa was elected at a national level and not a regional one. The decision to lift former president Chiluba's immunity was a parliamentary one and should not be blamed on President Mwanawasa," Kavindele said.

Even though some Luapula legislators have tried to distance themselves from the anti-Mwanawasa sentiment, generally MPs from the northern region have come out against the current leadership, alleging that they have been marginalised by Mwanawasa's administration.

"I think the other downside to the MMD internal fight is that it is going to deepen the perceived ethnic divisions. This will result in people not looking at things rationally, but on tribal grounds. My suggestion is that President Mwanawasa should immediately look at ways of placating the northern Luapula faction," Mutesa suggested.

Mwanawasa's position has been weakened by an opposition petition to the Supreme Court that alleges the December 2001 election was rigged.

Damaging testimony has been heard from former senior party officials, some of whom have been hounded by the government's anti-corruption task force, acknowledging that votes were bought and the state machinery used to ensure Mwanawasa's victory by fewer than 34,000 votes out of a potential electorate of four million. Mwanawasa has said if state funds were used illegally, he was not aware of it.

Chiluba, a 61-year-old lay preacher and former trade union movement leader, has said that he would be willing to testify against his successor. The seven-strong Supreme Court are likely to order a re-run of the election if they rule in favour of the opposition.

But away from the party infighting, Chiluba's arrest has been welcomed by civil rights activists who campaigned against the lack of accountability during his 10-year rule, a period that has been dubbed the "decade of plunder", as ordinary Zambians sunk into even deeper poverty.

"It sends an important message not only to Zambian leaders but to all African leaders that in a democracy nobody is above the law and that abuses will eventually lead to prosecution," said David Simpson, chairman of the Southern Africa Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes.

Chiluba, who was released on bail on Monday after surrendering his passport, is due to appear in court on 3 March together with his former intelligence chief Xavier Chungu, currently in detention on similar charges of diversion of public funds.

"It is a good precedent, which will teach Zambian leaders not to take the electorate for granted in the future," Reverend Nevers Mumba, who heads the opposition National Christian Coalition, told IRIN. "Politicians must know that Zambians hate to be cheated by their leaders. What has happened to Chiluba will happen to anyone who cheats Zambians."

The leader of the International Federation of Free Trade Unions, Fackson Shamenda, said the precedent set that a former head of state can lose his immunity from prosecution would have far-reaching implications.

"I am afraid this thing will catch up with those in power since they are products of the same plunder they are fighting," he told IRIN.

02 / 19 / 2003

IRIN 

The Article: "Ex-president loses immunity, faces arrest"

Former Zambian head of state Frederick Chiluba has lost a last minute bid to retain his immunity from prosecution, effectively paving the way for his arrest.

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously dismissed Chiluba's appeal against a parliamentary ruling last year that lifted the immunity against prosecution he enjoyed as a former president.

Chiluba's lawyer, Robert Simeza, told IRIN after the ruling that his client "is now going to be arrested". Soon after the verdict, Chiluba was asked to appear at the offices of the government's task force on corruption.

The former Zambian president faces several criminal charges for offences he allegedly committed during his 10-years in power, dubbed by critics as a "decade of plunder".

The high-profile case began in July when Chiluba's chosen successor, President Levy Mwanawasa, asked parliament to lift Chiluba's indemnity as part of his crusade against corruption. Mwanawasa argued that the charges levelled against his predecessor were in direct conflict with Zambia's national interest.

They included a US $20.5 million payment to a Congolese businessman, Katebe Katoto, for military equipment that was never delivered. Chiluba has also been accused of involvement in the undervalued sale of cobalt, in which Zambia lost US $60 million.

The Supreme Court's decision was generally welcomed by commentators IRIN spoke to.

"This is the kind of judgement that the Zambian people were expecting," opposition Zambia Alliance Party president, Dean Mungomba, said.

Nellie Mutti, chair of the Anti-Corruption Commission investigating the mismanagement of the national economy and abuse of office, welcomed the decision.

"I think it is good that the Supreme Court has finally made a decision on this matter. Now we can move onto other cases and make progress," he told IRIN.

But some analysts have suggested that the ruling was a double-edged sword that Zambia's leaders could come to regret.

"I think as a deterrent against corrupt leaders, the decision is good," said Fred Mutesa, an analysts from the University of Zambia's Department of Development Studies. "But this has set a precedent that has long-term ramifications that will not spare Mr Mwanawasa and his friends from the ruling party when they are no longer in power."

The Supreme Court is currently hearing a petition by three opposition parties who allege that the December 2001 election, which brought Mwanawasa to power, was marred by vote-buying and other electoral malpractice. The accusations have been supported by international and local election monitoring groups.

"The trial has now moved on to Mwanawasa. He must tell us just how much Chiluba stole, and how much of that money Mwanawasa benefited from," Michael Sata, the leader of the opposition Patriotic Front, said outside the court house.

The Supreme Court has in recent days heard damaging testimony from incarcerated former intelligence chief Xavier Chungu and former finance minister Katele Kalumba. They have stated under oath that they used tax payers money to bank-roll Mwanawasa's campaign, and to clean up his personal debts ahead of the polls, in breach of Zambia's electoral laws.

But according to Mulenga Mambwe, who described himself as an opposition supporter: "As long as Chiluba goes in jail, I will feel good. Mr Mwanawasa can be dealt with later if need be."

Mwanawasa also has problems within his own party. He was initially regarded at Chiluba's protégé. His subsequent determination to prosecute Chiluba and his senior lieutenants in the ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) has helped undermine party unity.

Chitalu Sampa, MMD chairman and former defence minister said that the Supreme Court decision was likely to cause further divisions.


02 / 11 / 2003

IRIN 

The Article: "Uproar over "national unity" government"

Controversy has erupted over President Levy Mwanawasa's decision to appoint key opposition members of parliament (MPs) to his cabinet, a move that critics say is a breach of Zambian law and designed to weaken his opponents.

In a move unprecedented in Zambian politics, Mwanawasa on Saturday named nine opposition MPs to his government, three of them as full ministers, while the rest were given deputy ministerial positions in the name of national unity. In so doing, Mwanawasa ignored a High Court injunction restraining him from going ahead with the appointments.

Under Zambian law, any MPs that cross the carpet automatically loose their seat. To become a minister one either has to be an MP or be nominated by the president. Mwanawasa had already nominated his full quota of eight legislators.

On that basis, the leader of the opposition Heritage Party, retired Brig-Gen Godfrey Miyanda, won the High Court injunction restraining Mwanawasa late on Friday.

But Mwanawasa, a former lawyer, responded: "The High Court cannot grant an injunction against me as president. I enjoy indemnity against injunctions as long as I am president and I think the injunction was granted in order to embarrass me so I am going ahead with the appointments in the name of national unity."

Zambia's opposition parties have reacted by expelling legislators who have accepted government posts.

"Our position has not changed from the time Mr. Mwanawasa said he would appoint opposition MP's to his cabinet," Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) president Christon Tembo said shortly after Mwanawasa named his new ministers. "The MP's that have accepted the cabinet positions must consider themselves expelled from our party."

But Mwanawasa's response has been robust. "I don't care if the opposition expels the MP's that I will appoint," he recently told a campaign rally.
"I will adopt the same MP's during the bye-elections and win."

Mwanawasa has stressed that the appointments were in the "national interest" in a bid to reconcile opponents over the controversial December 2001 presidential election, ruled as flawed by international and local poll monitors.

Opposition parties have petitioned the Supreme Court to have the election annulled, and key politicians and officials from the former administration of Frederick Chiluba have presented damaging testimonies of vote-buying and malpractice that have undermined Mwanawasa.

"His dismissiveness of the party leaders has left many of us to wonder whether he sincerely wants to unite the country," Father Joe Komakoma, head of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), a church-run NGO told IRIN. "He should have sat with the leaders and mapped out a strategy and terms of reference on how the new arrangement was going to work, but he did not do that so this rules out his good intention of national unity."

02 / 05 / 2003

IRIN 

The Article: "Focus on pressure on Mwanawasa to resign"

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

Pressure is mounting on Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa to step down and call fresh elections following damaging testimony before the Supreme Court suggesting electoral fraud helped him into office last year.

The pressure has come from some of Mwanawasa's closest allies, as they witness the former lawyer turned anti-corruption crusader become increasingly linked to breaches of Zambia's electoral code in a Supreme Court hearing launched by opposition parties who are attempting to have the December 2001 poll annulled.

Mwanawasa, who struck a popular chord with his campaign against corruption which targeted former key members of his own party in the previous administration of Frederick Chiluba, has reportedly said that he would not succumb to "ill advise" to resign, and instead would wait for the Supreme Court's decision.

"I refuse to call for fresh elections based on lies which are being told," he told journalists. "I have lots of respect for the judiciary and I will respect their decision in this matter."

But Mwanawasa's credibility suffered a further blow last week when Xavier Chungu, the former head of intelligence under Chiluba, testified that he personally cleaned up Mwanawasa's "bad debts" before the 2001 election using a special intelligence account held in London. He also alleged that he gave Mwanawasa up to US $416,000 in cash to help buy votes in the run up to the poll.

In addition to the money he said he personally gave Mwanawasa from state coffers, Chungu alleged that he spent an additional US $458,000 to purchase cars and bicycles for Mwanawasa's campaign, on instructions from Chiluba, who had chosen Mwanawasa to succeed him as presidential candidate for the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD).

Chungu was subpoenaed by lawyers of the three main opposition parties, the United Party for National Development (UPND), the Forum for Democracy and Development and the Heritage Party who are challenging the result of the 2001 election. The former intelligence chief is currently under police custody and faces more than 20 counts of theft.

The head of the European Union election monitoring team testified late last year that the polls were not free and fair and so did the US-based Carter Centre and two domestic monitors, Coalition 2001 and the Foundation for a Democratic Process. Their main bone of contention was the use of state funds by Mwanawasa's campaign.

Former ministers Vernon Mwaanga, Levison Mumba and Michael Sata have all provided details on how tax-payers money was spent to support Mwanawasa's candidacy. Chiluba himself has gone on record that he would be willing to testify against Mwanawasa if he was subpoenaed.

In the face of the damaging allegations of vote-buying, even Mwanawasa's allies have begun to distance themselves.

Twice this week the influential privately owned newspaper The Post, which has backed Mwanawasa's campaign to jail politicians that had plundered the economy over the past decade of MMD rule, advised him to stand down to avoid further embarrassment.

"We urge President Mwanawasa to heed the advice of so many well-meaning and well-intentioned Zambians at home and abroad calling for fresh elections, without that, no good will come out of his government regardless of good intentions, policies and programmes he may have," one editorial argued.

"We say this because as things stand today, President Mwanawasa's crusade against corruption cannot be complete because if it is not limited, it will touch on his very source of power _ the 27 December 2001 fraudulent election."

Mwanawasa's response has been to announce a radical move to appoint key opposition members of parliament to his government. The decision, however, has earned him further scorn from opposition leaders who regard it as a thinly veiled attempt to divide them and derail the Supreme Court petition.

"If the planned appointments were in good faith, Mwanawasa would have consulted the party leaders, but he has chosen to go it alone which can only mean one thing, he wants to weaken the opposition and undoubtedly scuttle the petition," said UPND spokesman Robby Makayi.

Ben Mwila, leader of the Zambia Republican Party, told journalists that the "only way Mwanawasa can regain credibility is by calling for a fresh election now in the national interest, hanging on to power is against national interest and he knows it".

But concern has emerged that although a fresh election could technically be the right step, it could throw Zambia into confusion and sink the government's popular poverty alleviation programmes.

"You need lots of money to hold an election, and money is one thing this government seems to lack the most right now," Sipho Kapumba, information and research officer at the Zambia chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa. "This thing ought to be thought over and elections can be held maybe 18 months from now in order to ensure that the social programmes go ahead."

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