Former Zambian President Edgar Lungu’s announcement of his political comeback has sparked anticipation and potential tensions within the country’s political landscape. While Lungu aims to capitalize on growing dissatisfaction with his successor, Hakainde Hichilema, the country’s economic challenges and high expectations from the public have created a sense of impatience and frustration with the current political leadership.
Lungu’s decision to re-enter politics comes after his retirement in 2021 following a crushing defeat in a presidential election. During his six years in office, Lungu left the country burdened with debt and facing economic instability. However, he now seeks to defend democracy and rally supporters to his cause.
The Patriotic Front (PF) party, led by Lungu, has been embroiled in a leadership dispute since he lost power two years ago. With another individual, Miles Sampa, claiming to have been elected as PF president, Lungu’s return could escalate tensions and prolong the ongoing legal battle.
Critics, including Lungu himself, have accused the government of exacerbating divisions, a claim that the government denies. Information Minister Cornelius Mweetwa asserts that Lungu has the democratic right to participate in the political sphere if he wishes.
Hichilema, who won the 2021 election with 59% of the vote, was expected to address the country’s economic challenges promptly. However, these expectations have yet to be met, leading to growing impatience among the public. While Hichilema has secured bailout agreements and restructured loan agreements with international organizations and creditors, high prices for staple foods and fuel continue to burden ordinary consumers.
Furthermore, the government has faced criticism for its alleged intolerance of dissent and shrinking space for freedom of expression and assembly. Thirteen civil society organizations recently condemned the government’s actions, accusing it of stifling dissent. The presidency maintains that it respects human rights and does not interfere with police operations.
Lungu’s weekly jogs with supporters have garnered attention, but he has been instructed to seek police approval for future events. As Lungu makes his political comeback, the stage is set for a potentially contentious and closely watched political landscape in Zambia.