Zambia Celebrates Peaceful Transfer of Power After Elections
Business quickly returned to normal in Zambia Tuesday, a day after veteran opposition leader Mr. Hakainde Hichilema was declared president-elect and the incumbent president Mr. Edgar Lungu conceded his election defeat.
Citizens brushed aside concerns of violent chaos that had been prevalent in the tense days before and after voting day last week. Traffic was busy in the capital, Lusaka, while businesses and markets reopened.
Many residents are still marveling at the southern African country’s rapid return to normal.
When Mr. Aahil Phiri saw a convoy of police and military vehicles zoom toward Hichilema’s residence, he didn’t know what to make of it.
I thought ‘Oh my God, they’re going to arrest him again!’ Then I thought ‘No, they can’t arrest him using those luxury cars. That’s not how they took him in the past,’” he said. “I was confused, he added.
But the convoy was carrying security commanders going to pledge allegiance to Mr. Hichilema, the man who had been arrested several times and once charged with treason.
Several other low-ranking police officers had already taken their place at Mr. Hichilema’s palatial residence on the outskirts of the capital, Lusaka, to be in charge of security for the 59-year old businessman turned politician.
Zambia has established a reputation as one of Africa’s stable democracies, with regular elections and peaceful transfers of power since founding president, the late Kenneth Kaunda, introduced multi-party democracy and subsequently accepted defeat in 1991.
Africa can handle its own affairs
“As a result, Africa is leading the way when it comes to good news stories — and that will inspire activists and pro-democracy groups across the continent,” said Mr. Nic Cheeseman, professor of politics at the University of Birmingham., who was in Zambia to follow the elections.
Zambia has “shown the world that after all, Africa is capable of handling its own affairs,” tweeted Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma, former president of Sierra Leone, who led the African Union’s mission observing the elections.
Opposition supporters in Zimbabwe, Zambia’s southern neighbor, are watching enviously.
“I salute the Zambian army, police, intel (intelligence) and the electoral commission for the exemplary professionalism and independence. Africa leads! Zimbabwe, you are next,” tweeted Mr. Nelson Chamisa, Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader. Zimbabwe has a history of disputed polls and the same party has ruled the country since it achieved independence in 1980.