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Monday, 14 May, 2001, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
Chiluba's U-turn: What is he up to?
Following mounting protests, the president of Zambia, Frederick Chiluba has finally announced that he will not be seeking a third term in office.
The prospect of Mr Chiluba running again had alarmed many within Zambia and the international community.
Moves by his supporters to change the country's constitution to enable Mr Chiluba to stand as president were vigorously challenged, sometimes violently, from within his own party.
Do you see his decision to back down as a sign of weakness or strength? Is he serious about not standing, or do you think it is a ploy?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Mohamed Abdi, Canada
There could be two aspects to Chiluba's decision not to run. Firstly, who would be the appropriate person to lead MMD in the next election? This was never clear. Secondly, it would make sense for Chiluba to reverse his decision at the "eleventh hour" as this would supposedly increase his popularity. It is a "wag the dog" political tactic that politicians use all over the world. By reversing his decision, he may be looked upon as a "saviour" and this could increase his chances in a MMD contention in the future....should it happen.
Whether a sign of strength or not, it is a victory is for the Zambian people. But how long will this last given the 'new' Cabinet that consists of recycled politicians?
Chiluba is a highly sincere person with great moral principles but only in the face of adversity. I lament the day we put him in power.
Joseph Nyirenda, UK
Chiluba's action was expected! He has displayed his lack of principles - he is an opportunist. It is not even surprising that he wants to remain in politics even after leaving office. Isn't this the same thing he condemned about Kaunda?
What makes Chiluba think he has all the answers for Zambia?
Zambians should be cautious about President Chiluba's decision not to go for a third term. They need to remain vigilant lest he has another trick up his sleeve. This could be a prelude to further dictatorship. Zambians should watch him and his party, the MMD.
Chiluba's not running for the third term is a sign of weakness. Events leading to that surprise announcement indicate that at one time he was willing to run. Thanks to the prayers of the believers and the strong opposition by most Zambians. Don't trust his word anymore. Lets just keep praying.
Africans should continue to stand and defend the established democratic rules and principles. It is disappointing to see that the same leaders who claim to be so democratic when they come into power are the same who are trying to amend the constitutions towards the end of their tenure. Africa will continue to lag behind if we don't get rid of power hungry leaders.
Abera, Ethiopian/ Maryland
For Chiluba, the wheel has merely come full circle. I would honestly have been seriously disappointed if this had not happened. This is indeed like him and indeed to the extent it exhibit is his treachery and machinations, it is probably the most honourable thing he ever did in his democratic pursuits.
From day one of his term, it was apparent he had come with his version of democracy just like the other so-called new breed of leaders on the continent. Like all of them, it had to be about the constitution. Have we so fast began to forget how he did all within his powers to suffocate the opposition through constitutional changes? If any of these tricks have to do with strength, it is high time we inquired which type we are talking about- is it evil or virtuous strength? All in all, Bravo!! to the Zambians who beat him at his own game and if we have to praise him for doing what he was supposed to though against expectations, shame upon us.
President Chiluba's decision is very wise, timely and full of discretion. He listened to an inner voice calling for sound judgement - something he has successfully done.
He has also realised that the people he has led for several years now want a change in leadership and unlike many African leaders who choose the bloody way, Chiluba has picked a quiet exit. That again means he respects all Zambians. Kudos Mr President!
My reply to Brian Farenell of the USA is that President Chiluba has NOT changed his mind about going for the third term. His dissolution of the cabinet and appointment of those who support his third term bid clearly show he is out to hoodwink the nation and the whole world.
Anthony Musonda, Zambian student in Germany
We have a leader who, despite increasingly autocratic tendencies, chose finally to respect the rule of law. And what is his reward? Thanks? Applause? A pat on the back for doing the right thing? Far from it. His reward is mistrust and suspicion. President Chiluba should have quashed a long time ago speculation about his running for a third term. Although it took him a while to come around, he did so. Although he is far from perfect, he was not willing to risk a constitutional coup d'etat or a bloodbath in order to attempt to preserve power; something which many other heads of state have tried. We should recognise that as strength and patriotism!
The fact that president Chiluba has decided to respect the law of the land is not a sign of strength. It is the duty of every sane person living in the country to respect the law. We don't praise people for not stealing or murdering why should we praise people who decide to obey the law?
Paxie Chikusie Chirwa, UK
Chiluba decision to step down was a very wise choice. The question is can we trust this decision. It is very encouraging to read and hear what the people of Zambia are doing to stop him from making a huge mistake. All I can say from here is that do not give up and keep fighting until it is over. And when we succeed it will teach not only the next leader that comes into power but the whole of Africa that their voice matters and that the governments in power are for the people and by the people.
For a self-proclaimed democrat to unscrupulously attempt to stand for an unconstitutional third-term simply shows Mr. Chiluba's weakness. He had no option but to back down, a further weakness of lack of foresight. As a Zambian, I commend all the fellow Zambian people and all foreign countries who stood up against Mr. Chiluba and his supporters. The focus for us should be to choose a new leader who has love for our country.
Dagne Tolla, Ethiopia
It is an acknowledgement of irresistible change that is sweeping through Africa for good. Peaceful change, no more guns. Africa will never be the same. Viva Africa!!!
As a Zambian who saw how President Chiluba and his MMD thugs got into power in 1991, I am doubtful whether to trust this man or not. President Chiluba is a trickster and he could still continue ruling this once gem of Africa. He just wants to hoodwink the watchful eye of the international community. No wonder Africa has now become famous for civil wars.
It is very disappointing to learn that the man who happened to bring democracy in Zambia, is the same man who violates the same democratic principles he brought about when he ousted Dr. Kaunda. Mr. Chiluba's time to go is now and I'm grateful that he decided to leave office when his term ends. I'm very encouraged by the steps the Zambian people took. It gives clear indication that our people are no more interested in taking autocratic orders from their leaders. They have proved that Africa needs change and that people like Chiluba are not ready to take Africa to the future.
Frederick Kaijage, USA
Strength or weakness? It dos not really matter. In fact it is a shame that he even attempted to change the constitution. As for his cronies who attempted to change the constitution, shame on you. Africa will no longer allow people like Chiluba and his like to prevail. The people's will and voice will prevail. I hope other African states follow suite.
05 May 01 | Africa
Zambian protests turn violent
04 May 01 | Africa
Chiluba: 'I won't stand again'
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