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No third term for Chiluba. (Around Africa - Zambia).

President Frederick Chiluba has finally bowed to pressure and announced he is stepping down at the end of his second five-year term, after a failed attempt to change the constitution to allow him to seek a third-term in office.

The announcement ended speculation that he would seek another term after amending the constitution, which limits the presidential tenure to two, five-year terms.

Announcing the decision in a TV broadcast to the nation in mid-May, Chiluba said: "Ten years ago, when you people of Zambia opted for a popular government, I promised that I would serve faithfully and that when I had served my two terms, I would leave office.

"That has always been my position and that is the only statement that I have made. I have said nothing to repudiate that or contradict my earlier pronouncements. I still stand by my word. I will leave office at the end of my term."

Though the president himself had not officially said a word about a third-term, events of the past two years dearly pointed to his determination to change both his party's and the national constitutions to make him go for a third term.

As it became clear that he was determined to change the constitutions, the church, legal fraternity, opposition parties and ordinary Zambians opposed to the third-term, intensified their efforts to stop him.

From what initially appeared to be a lone voice of a civil servant from Solwezi district, "sponsored" calls for Chiluba to run for a third-term suddenly intensified.

"If you stop the debate, you are not a democrat. Let the people talk. My duty is to listen. People must be allowed to debate freely without any fear and the majority will win," Chiluba himself had said about the raging debate.

Yet the debate was not free as those opposed to the third-term were harassed by pro-third term supporters.

Chiluba's own cabinet was split as some members, including the vice president, Lt-Gen Christon Tembo, and the ruling MMD party's vice president, Brig-Gen Godfrey Miyanda (who was also education minister), publicly attacked the president's intention to seek a third term.

But the crunch came at the MMD's extraordinary convention called in late April to discuss the third term. Some ministers opposed to the idea were assaulted, and then Lt-Gen Tembo and Brig-Gen Miyanda and others were denied entry by Chiluba's supporters from whom the police had, less than an hour earlier, confiscated 92 firearms.

Chiluba then dissolved the cabinet and announced a new one made up of mostly his supporters. Even then it took him a whole week to complete the exercise as he had not enough people to select from, soon after the mass expulsions.

The new cabinet has been described as "government made simple" by Edith Nawakwi who served under Chiluba as finance, and later labour, minister.

In one incident, Chiluba appointed a former clerk-typist as deputy minister for one of the provinces.

"As for the new cabinet, it is sad to note that it is truly government made simple," Edith Nawakwi said. "Under current circumstances, it is very difficult to convince an average Zambian that these are the best people to drive the nation into the new millennium even on an interim basis."

Chiluba hit back at his critics when swearing in the new cabinet. He said it was not true that the new cabinet was made up of mediocre ministers.

The anti-third term members have since filed a petition in parliament to have Chiluba impeached for what they term "gross misconduct". The petition was supported by 65 MPs who now want the House to set up a tribunal to investigate the president's alleged misconduct.

Though the third-term bandwagon has now been effectively derailed, many believe Chiluba only backed down because of pressure.
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Title Annotation:President Frederick Chiluba resigns
Author:Bongololo, Roger
Publication:New African
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:6ZAMB
Date:Jun 1, 2001
Previous Article:The horse and the jockey. (Around Africa - Gabon/France).
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