Zambia: Rumours of Treason

By Scott Morgan

One of the most dangerous occupations in Africa now has to be the leader of the main opposition party after the incumbent wins reelection. In several nations we have noticed that the supporters of the ruling party have been overzealous in their support for their candidate.

There is one country (one that has been considered to be a stable and viable democracy) where this scenario is currently playing out: Zambia. Sadly, recent events have taken place which show that not even Zambia is immune to having leadership attempting to stifle any form of opposition.

In 2016, Hakainde Hichilema ran and  lost an election to the current President Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front. However, there was a recent altercation between the motorcades of both gentlemen that resulted in Mr. Hichilema being charged with treason. It appears now that the row between both of these men has created an issue where the charges of treason could appear to be legitimate to the casual observer or, more importantly, to the supporters of the ruling party.

A posting on Facebook (by an account linked to the ruling party) claimed that Mr. Hichilema met with potential foreign funders and was contemplating a military intervention by foreign elements before the elections. One of the people that has been linked to this “cabal” is former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. Why has this connection been made? The former President has been vocal in his criticism of the treatment of Mr. Hichilema. In fact, he has actually called upon the Government to respect Human Rights and end its harassment of Mr. Hichilema. This is enough for the Patriotic Front to unleash its allies in the media against this elder statesman.

The posting also linked the leader of the Opposition to the Oppenheimer Family in South Africa who runs the large Anglo-American Conglomerate. This could be seen as the company seeking access to either the Copper mines in the Country (which has seen a rebound since the Trump Administration took over in the United States) or the Uranium Mines. Both of these minerals present a great potential revenue stream for the company.

So the allegations include that Foreign Military Observers were present to outline the case to initiate an intervention if a country faces “acute political volatility and threats to internal stability which has a transnational dimension.” It did not specify what form this would take: whether by a UN Stabilization force or by regional actors. Other factors include the stalling of democratic institutions and unrest generated by the collapse of commodity prices. There are several other states that are currently in worse shape now than what was proposed to facilitate change in Zambia.

There are a couple of major issues to be addressed. First of all is the timing. These events are alleged to have taken place a year ago. So why wait until now? Diminishing the credibility of your opposition has been a Political game played since the time when Rome morphed from a republic into an empire. Therefore, accusing him of conspiring with foreign elements is a classic tactic used by those in power. This also shows signs that for whatever reason Mr. Hichilema is considered to be a threat to those currently in power, in Lusaka.

So the recent incident with the motorcades may have been staged to provide evidence to what the Patriotic Front (aka the Government) sees as treason. It is an ends to a means and African Politics as usual.

[The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dissecting Society]


  1. Hichilema is the Zambian Trump, and looking at Trump's delivery perhaps we should avoid having another rich guy leading a country. Just stick to business!

  2. Hi Morgan,

    I'd say Hakainda Hichilema's political presidential ambitions resemble those of Hillary Clinton (how many more times does he want to lose before realising that maybe it's not for him?). This post just gave me an idea for another one, so thanks.


  3. Why would Mr Hichilema seek a foreign military intervention in Zambia: in the name of what? That doesn't make sense at all. This story reminds me of 1998 when Captain Solo attempted a Coup in Lusaka - captain Solo, get it? lol


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