THE landslide electoral defeat of Kenneth Kaunda's ruling party
in a peaceful ballot over the weekend could mark the turning point
in Africa's march to democracy.
The democracy movement in Africa is picking up the momentum of
the tide that swept governments from power in Eastern Europe two
years ago, a Western diplomat says.
Western diplomats predict that Kenya, Malawi, and Zimbabwe will
be the first nations to feel the spin-off effects of the Zambian
poll. The vote could also speed up faltering transitions to
democracy in Angola, South Africa, and Mozambique.
"It will be much more difficult for oppressors to keep people
oppressed after what has happened here," said former United States
President Jimmy Carter, who headed an international monitoring team
that declared the Zambian ballot "free and fair."
President Frederick Chiluba's Movement for Multiparty Democracy
(MMD) crushed the ruling United National Independence Party (UNIP)
by winning at least 124 of the 150 parliamentary seats after
surprisingly low voter turnout of less than 50 percent.
Kaunda was confident
Dr. Kaunda, who had led the country since independence in 1964,
appeared confident of a landslide victory until polling day, which
bolstered his critics' charges that he had lost touch with the
nation he founded 27 years ago.
The significance of the Zambian poll lies in the fact that it
was the culmination of one of the most peaceful transitions to
democracy in Africa. It is the first former British colony to
change its head of state through democratic elections - and one of
only a handful ever to have done so.
Mr. Chiluba garnered 76 percent of the presidential vote against
Kaunda's 24 percent. The extent of the MMD'S victory surpassed even
its most optimistic predictions.
Zambia joins eight other African states which are classified as
democratic by Richard Joseph, director of the African Governance
Program at the Carter Center of Emory University.
Impact on Africa
The Zambian transition is going to have more of an impact on
Africa than any other that has taken place on the continent, said
Mr. Joseph, a leading member of Mr. Carter's monitoring team.
According to the Center, 30 African states are in the process of
transition to democracy, and only six qualify as "authoritarian
systems in which rulers have no accountability.
Carter has appealed to the Bush administration to reward
Zambia's commitment to democracy by targeting it as a priority
nation for United States aid.
"I hope that my government will take the leadership in calling
on the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the lending
institutions to move boldly to give Zambia assistance - not
handouts," Carter said.
"I think this would be an investment which would pay rich
dividends ... to see democracy strengthened here," he added. He
also called for Zambia's $8 billion in foreign debt to be written
Foreign investment would enable Chiluba to show early benefits
in the pitiful state of Zambia's schools and hospitals.
International monitoring teams, which included a Commonwealth
team and a group of British jurists, played a key role in ensuring
a fair ballot. …