LUSAKA – In a move that has stirred excitement among his supporters and raised eyebrows across the political landscape, former Zambian President Edgar Lungu has officially announced his return to politics.
Lungu, who retreated from the political arena in 2021 following a resounding defeat in the presidential elections, is now making a bold bid for a comeback.
During his six years in office, Lungu faced mounting criticism for leaving the country in substantial debt and grappling with a precarious economy.
However, he aims to leverage growing dissatisfaction with his successor, Hakainde Hichilema, in his quest for political revival.
The anticipation of Lungu’s return has been a topic of speculation for some time, and his recent announcement marks the formal beginning of his campaign.
Addressing his supporters at a commemoration service for the late President and leader of his Patriotic Front (PF) party, Michael Sata, who passed away in 2014, Lungu expressed enthusiasm to serve.
“I am ready to fight from the front, not from the rear, in defence of democracy. Those who are ready for this fight, please come along with me; I am ready for anything.”
Since Lungu’s departure from power two years ago, the PF has been embroiled in an internal power struggle, which has even landed in court.
Lungu’s entry into the political fray could exacerbate tensions and prolong the legal battle, as another contender, Miles Sampa, claims to have been elected as the PF president in a recent meeting.
While some, including Lungu himself, have accused the government of sowing discord, government officials deny such claims.
Information minister Cornelius Mweetwa emphasized that Lungu “enjoys a constitutional and democratic right to participate in the political sphere of our country, and if he so wishes, he is welcome back in the political arena.”
Hichilema secured victory in the 2021 elections, his sixth attempt at the presidency, promising to address Zambia’s economic challenges.
However, the high hopes for rapid change have yet to materialize, testing the patience of the Zambian people.
The current president has made strides in negotiating a bailout agreement with the International Monetary Fund and restructuring loan agreements with Chinese and other creditors.
Hichilema contends that he inherited a nation grappling with severe economic problems, particularly in the crucial mining sector.
Nonetheless, soaring prices for staple foods and fuel have burdened ordinary consumers, leading to frustration with the political leadership.
Just this week, 13 prominent civil society organizations criticized the government for its “growing intolerance for dissent” in a joint statement, highlighting a “shrinking space for freedom of expression and assembly in the country.”
In response, the presidency has consistently asserted its commitment to respecting human rights and non-interference in police operations.
Notably, last month, Edgar Lungu faced warnings against public jogging, with the police describing his weekly runs as “political activism.”
His occasional Saturday jogs, attended by ordinary citizens and PF supporters, have attracted significant attention.
Authorities directed the former president to seek police approval for future jogging events, illustrating the complexities surrounding his return to the political arena in Zambia.