20 April 2017

Africa: South Africa Must Stand Up for Democracy On the Continent

Photo: Zambia Reports
President Edgar Lungu.

The events that are currently unfolding in Zambia should be deeply concerning to those committed to democracy in Africa.

A week ago today, Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema was arrested and detained on charges of treason, the maximum punishment for which is death.

The excessive violence of the arrest, and the inhumane treatment that Hichilema has received in detention confirms the political motives behind these charges. The arbitrary arrest of political opponents is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes, which seek to systematically eliminate any potential threat to their rule. This is a reality that South Africans are all too familiar with given our history of political repression under apartheid minority rule.

The events that are currently unfolding in Zambia should be deeply concerning to those committed to democracy in Africa. The roots of this political crisis can be traced to the flawed election that President Edgar Lungu officially won in August 2016, following credible reports of the abuse of state media and public funds for the ruling party's campaign, the shutting down of opposition newspapers, widespread voter intimidation and a lack of transparency in the vote counting process. In rubber-stamping this election, the international community - including election observer missions...

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