Zambia 'coup plot' arrests

IN JULY 1980 Frederick Chiluba, then chairman of the Zambian Congress of Trade Unions, was detained under emergency national security laws, allegedly for inciting workers to disrupt industrial peace and overthrow the government. It was one of several occasions when Mr Chiluba was harassed for criticising Kenneth Kaunda's one-party state.

In December 1991 Mr Chiluba won Zambia's first multi-party election for 27 years and promptly abolished the state of emergency which had existed since 1971, proclaiming the importance of 'free speech and the exercise of free will unhampered by the state'.

On 4 March 1993 President Chiluba declared a state of emergency and detained 10 people, including, Wezi Kaunda, son of the former president. He said that certain people were trying to throw the country into chaos.

Vernon Mwaanga, the Foreign Minister, said that Iran and Iraq had been funding subversive elements in the oppositon United National Independence Party (Unip).

He said the state of emergency was declared after the discovery of Unip documents showing it intended to gain power through civil disobedience and armed insurrection.

Unip has denied that it has received funding from Iran or Iraq and said that it would be happy to help investigations into the plot allegations. Kebby Musikotwane, the Unip president, told journalists in Lusaka that police had detained six national leaders and at least four junior officials from the party.

Reports of a plot to subvert the government first surfaced last week in the state-owned Times of Zambia. Mr Musikotwane subsequently told reporters he had received a copy of a subversion plot document from radical party elements, but he denied it was Unip policy.

Western diplomats said yesterday that it was too early to say whether this represented another African leader establishing a dictatorship but said that the evidence of a plot backed by Iran or Iraq was 'a bit thin'.

The government has told Western diplomats that it will retain the state of emergency for seven days and then ask parliament to extend it for 90 days.

One Western diplomat said yesterday: 'It is depressing but if the government gets parliamentary approval for the state of emergency and produces evidence which convinces its courts, well and good, but if it goes ahead with the state of emergency with no approval and no evidence, we will have to ask ourselves serious questions about aid to Zambia.'