Zambian police and protesters clashed early Tuesday during demonstrations against Guy Scott, the country's newly appointed acting president, after he dismissed Edgar Lungu from his post as secretary general of the ruling Patriotic Front party.
Lungu claimed that his dismissal by Scott is illegal and accused him of “insulting” their culture. Scott took over from Lungu who had filled in for former president Michael Sata while the latter was away in London for treatment for an undisclosed illness. Sata died at a London hospital last week. Scott, who was born in Scotland, is the first white leader of an African nation since South Africa’s FW de Klerk stepped down in 1994.
Clashes began Monday in several parts of the capital city of Lusaka, including at Belvedere Lodge, a government building that was designated as a location for Sata’s mourners to gather, according to The Associated Press, or AP. Demonstrators went into the building with stones, weapons and match boxes, following which the police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, AP reported.
Lungu was a contender for the presidency and some critics view his dismissal as a political game before the elections. The country’s constitution states that presidential elections must be held within 90 days of a president’s demise.
Sata’s body was brought to the capital from London on Saturday while Scott reportedly picked Zambian lawmaker Davies Mwila to become the next secretary general of the ruling party after Lungu. But, Mwila refused the position, stating, according to AP: “It is a taboo in our tradition to start politicking before burying the deceased.”
Later, Nixon Chilangwa, another lawmaker, accepted the appointment, according to AP.
Moses Siwali, spokesperson for the country's home affairs ministry, asked the political parties to resolve their differences through discussion and said: “We don't want Zambia to go into turmoil,” according to AP.