Zambia ratifies 90-day state of emergency

President Edgar Lungu (File: AFP)
President Edgar Lungu (File: AFP)

Lusaka - Zambia's parliament on Tuesday approved a 90-day state of emergency decreed by President Edgar Lungu, a move that critics see as an effort to tighten his grip on power.

Opposition lawmakers boycotted the vote by leaving the chamber, leaving only the 85 members of the president's majority party to pass the measure.

Lungu last week gave police increased powers of arrest and detention, alleging that opposition parties were behind a string of arson attacks intended "to create terror and panic", including one that burned down the main market in the capital last week.

He denied any intention of creating a dictatorship in Zambia - until recently a relatively stable country -- and accused his rivals of trying to overturn last year's election results.

That election was narrowly lost by Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND), who has been jailed since April.

His party's 48 lawmakers have been suspended by parliament after they boycotted an address by Lungu in March.

Home Affairs minister Stephen Kampyongo said on Tuesday that the government would soon arrest the perpetrators of the fires.

"It's time for boots, for our men to be on the ground. We are going to put this to a halt. If it will take us lives to have this peace, so be it," he said.

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