Zambian President Edgar Chagwa Lungu/ EPA/JASON SZENES
President Edgar Lungu has warned Zambia’s judges against blocking him from running in 2021 elections, saying a judicial intervention like that in Kenya could plunge the country into chaos.
Lungu is expected to contest the 2021 race but may face a legal challenge from opposition parties which claim it would be unconstitutional as he has already served two terms — the maximum permitted by law.
“Don’t become a copycat and think that you are a hero if you plunge this country into chaos,” Lungu told supporters at an event in Solwezi, north west Zambia, that was broadcast on state radio late Thursday.
“I want to close by saying that those people who don’t like peace and freedom will say ‘President Lungu is intimidating the courts of law’ — I am not intimidating the judiciary.
“I am just warning you because I have information that some of you want to be adventurous, your adventure should not plunge us into chaos please.”
The warning comes after Kenya was rocked by two months of political drama and acrimony, triggered by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn an election in August over widespread irregularities.
If Lungu formally registered his candidacy to contest 2021’s polls then opposition parties could seek to have the bid ruled illegal by the constitutional court.
The country’s constitution says that a president can serve only two terms of five years.
Lungu, who became president in January 2015 after the death of Michael Sata, was controversially reelected in 2016 but it remains unclear whether that would count as two terms under the law.
“I want to make it very clear. People are saying Zambian courts should emulate Kenyan courts,” said Lungu. “People are saying Zambian courts should be brave and make decisions which are in the interest of the people — but look at what’s happening in Kenya now.
“Whether I am eligible to stand or not in 2021 should not be dependent on the case in Kenya.”