The widow of Zambia’s late president Michael Sata announced her intention to run for the country’s presidency on Thursday. The bid pits former first lady Christine Kaseba against her stepson in an already divisive succession race.
Kaseba announced she has filed papers to run for the ruling Patriotic Front’s (PF) presidential ticket in a Zambian newspaper, according to Reuters. The former first lady joins nine other candidates running for the presidency, including Sata’s son Mulenga Sata, and his nephew Miles Sampa. The family face-off constitutes an unprecedented political development, according to the independent Zambian news site Zambia Reports.
Michael Sata, who had been president of Zambia since 2011, died in a London hospital last month after a protracted battle with an undisclosed illness. Since his passing, the PF has been divided over his successor. Frontrunner Edgar Lungu has been publicly at odds with former vice president and interim leader Guy Scott on the question of the process to elect the new president. Lungu reportedly has the backing of numerous members of the ruling party, including other members of the Sata family.
The entry of Kaseba, who has pledged to continue her late husband's policies, into the pool of presidential aspirants further complicates an already contentious contest. “I have come to the conclusion that part of the mourning of this great Zambian leader will be in completing the work he began," she told Zambia’s The Post newspaper on Thursday.
Sata's death has left Zambia, Africa's second-largest copper producer, in a state of turmoil ahead of its Jan. 20 presidential election. Questions have also risen over the country's stability.
Scott’s decision to fire Lungu as secretary general of the PF earlier this month prompted street riots unseen in the country’s recent history and, though the interim leader later reversed course on the decision, concerns still remain about the ramifications of the upcoming election. Zambia’s constitution mandates that presidential elections be held within 90 days of a leader’s passing.