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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.

Your reaction

Mr Chiluba's turnaround was a great victory for African democracy

Mohamed Abdi, Canada
Mr Chiluba's turnaround was a great victory for African democracy and particularly for Zambia as this country is only one of a handful of African countries that managed to change leadership without bloodshed.
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.
Dharmendra Nayee, Malaysia

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?
Shadow Boxer, Zambia

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.
Evans M, USA

It is very disappointing that Chiluba even contemplated running for a third term

Joseph Nyirenda, UK
It is very disappointing that Chiluba even contemplated running for a third term. There is no heroism in subjecting one's people to violence and discrimination in the pursuit of self-interest. The real heroes are the Zambian men and women who stood up to Chiluba and made it known that his "hour had come". It is not a birthright to be president. African leaders must bear this in mind when they enter public life. Africa and the rest of the developing world should take a leaf from Zambia's chapter in democracy. It is a painful process, but it is the only way forward for the developing world. The power of the people should never be underestimated.
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?
Namuunda Mutombo, Australia

What makes Chiluba think he has all the answers for Zambia?
Mesaye Melari, Ethiopia

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.
Theresa Kambobe, East Timor

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.
Pastor Ackson Kamanga, Zambia

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.
Cosmas Kimario, Tanzania

The scar remains no matter what he did in his tenure as a president

Abera, Ethiopian/ Maryland
Mr Chiluba's attempt to change the constitution in order to run for the third time has already wounded the young establishment of democracy in the country. By making the U-turn he might help in healing the wounds but the scar remains no matter what he did in his tenure as a president.
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.
Henry Oj, Canada

The situation is clearly out of Mr Chiluba's control

Matotwe, Zambia
The situation is clearly out of Mr Chiluba's control. I see his National Secretary as the man who has been pulling the strings and who without doubt talked the President into this affair. The conclusion is that the President has lost the little integrity he could have won. The unfolding events will clearly spell out the position of the real democrats especially if he is impeached.
Matotwe, Zambia

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!
Lilian Kimeto, Kenya

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.
Richard Chipunza, Norway

The real victors are the people who have shown Chiluba where real power rests

Anthony Musonda, Zambian student in Germany
Chiluba now knows for sure that real power rests with the people who make the laws through their elected representatives, put leaders in power through the ballot and limit their authority to rule by the very laws they put in place. The real victors are the people who have shown Chiluba where real power rests.
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!
Brian Farenell, USA

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?
Julius Jere, Zambia

Democratic principles must always prevail if Africa is to progress

Paxie Chikusie Chirwa, UK
It's not a matter of backing down but rather that democratic principles must always prevail if Africa is to progress. It should also send a very strong signal to neighbouring Malawi that a few greedy individuals should not use their closeness to the President to adulterate the constitution for personal gains.
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.
Moonga Ndulo, USA

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.
Lewis Ntaimo, Zambia

His backing off from this attempt doesn't show his strength

Dagne Tolla, Ethiopia
President Chiluba's intention to run for a third term by manipulating Zambia's constitution was a challenge to democracy in that country and was wrong from the outset. His backing off from this attempt doesn't show his strength, but that of committed Zambians who were ready to stop him by using all legal means available to them.
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!!!
Peter Mala, Switzerland

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.
Mwana Wamuntubuyo, Zambia

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.
Juda Dagane, South Africa

There is nothing in what he did that indicates political strength

Frederick Kaijage, USA
What Mr Chiluba did was to jump as he was being pushed. If he had continued to resist, he would have fallen so hard that he probably would have broken a few bones. There is nothing in what he did that indicates political strength on his part. He is just another power-hungry African dictator trying to cling on to power at any cost. I am sure he has done a lot of damage to the investment climate in Zambia. See how he hounded the much revered old man, Kenneth Kaunda. His democratic mask fell off many years ago.
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.
Abou Bakarr Amara, Wisconsin, USA

See also:

05 May 01 | Africa
Zambian protests turn violent
04 May 01 | Africa
Chiluba: 'I won't stand again'
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