Lusaka – Social media was abuzz on Thursday after Zambian President Edgar Lungu declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, following a series of apparent arson attacks in the southern African country.
Reports indicated that the move was likely to trigger fresh accusations of government authoritarianism.
See reaction on social media below
"My government has decided to invoke article 31 [leading] to a state of public emergency," Lungu said in a nationally televised address.
"Practical measures as outlined tonight have had to be invoked."
Several fires, including one that burnt down the main market in the capital Lusaka on Tuesday, were described by Lungu as "premeditated acts which if left unchecked could have serious socio-economic consequences".
Lungu vowed to take "stringent action" against those he suspected of having caused an inferno that razed the market.
He maintained that the market was deliberately set on fire in an act bordering on "economic sabotage".
Political tensions have been high in Zambia this year after the arrest and continued detention of opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, a wealthy businessman who has run for president five times.
Hichilema narrowly lost elections last year to Lungu, and has alleged that the result was rigged.
In April Hichilema was arrested on treason charges after his convoy allegedly refused to give way to the presidential motorcade.
He has since been moved to a maximum security prison and it is unclear when he will return to court.
State of emergency or state of the nation affair in Zambia? Ooh! Cry my beloved country.— Phineas Chilanda (@PhineasChilanda) July 6, 2017
One needs no elaborate early warning system mechanism to see that #Zambia is few miles away from full blown dictatorship.— Afropracticalist (@BabsFagbayibo) July 6, 2017
All that is needed is for regional powers/Sadc/AU to send him a message of caution. This silence only emboldens him #Zambia— Afropracticalist (@BabsFagbayibo) July 6, 2017
The sad thing about Edgar Lungu's madness is that he's still testing waters and can still be stopped by regional powers #Zambia— Afropracticalist (@BabsFagbayibo) July 6, 2017
So much progress going down the drain #Zambia— Lulu Mwanawasa (@SincerelyLu_) July 6, 2017
So Zambia has evolved into another Zimbabwe, Uganda&Cameroom....?— MisheckKugodaMlambo (@mishmlambo) July 6, 2017
Why not pluck a leaf from his neighbour President Khama or even Zuma-shame