Zambia in reverse -
Muzzled media organisations, a cowed judiciary and a impotent opposition party. Right now the capital of Lusaka doesn't seem all that different from some of its struggling neighbours. But it wasn't always this way
. In fact, it wasn't even this way three short years ago.
In the two decades to 2015 Zambia had stood out as a model democracy in southern Africa; one with a strong sense of civic duty and vigorously contested elections that characterised the lives of its public servants.
In 2015, Edgar Lungu came to power to serve out the term of Michael Sata who had died in office the prior year. The race for Sata's succession was a tight one. But then in the general election held the very next year Zambia got its first hint of what was to come. A reactive Lungu incited violence and paranoia among his supporters who obligingly turned on Hakainde Hichilema's opposition. The country's only independent newspaper, the Post, was also shuttered by the government in the lead up to the vote.
Lungu won last year's general election, once again by an exceptionally narrow margin. But Hichilema refused to accept the result, claiming that voter intimidation had swayed the result. Lungu's supporters then protested outside the Constitutional Court until the case was dropped. And since then Zambia has slid steadily towards illiberalism. Lungu's followers have railed against the Law Association of Zambia, against broadcast media stations, and the parliament. Opposition lawmakers have been sidelined or suspended from parliament. And earlier this year Hichilema himself was arrested for treason. His crime? The alleged obstruction of the president's motorcade
In typical authoritarian fashion, Lungu has stifled any group with a dissenting opinion. An imagined campaign of subversion and sabotage became the justification for the government's declaration of emergency rule. This in turn prompted the Conference of Catholic Bishops to decry that "[the] country is now all, except in designation, a dictatorship".
Zambia is heading down a deeply troubling and unfortunately familiar path. And yet, many African and international leaders have so far failed to substantively respond to the hijacking of this erstwhile peaceful democracy.
Venezuela's tainted vote -
Venezuela is scarcely having a better run. This week dictator-cum-president Nicolas Maduro celebrated his victory in a rigged vote on the creation of a new legislative body. The new 537-seat Constituent Assembly is stacked with Maduro supporters
, and even includes his wife and son. It will be given sweeping powers to disenfranchise opposition groups and even dissolve Congress (the last remaining opposition-controlled democratic institution in the country).
Despite half the country boycotting the recent vote, Maduro has pressed on. Independent observers, the opposition, and even the company hired to operate
the voting system have all cried foul play. The fact that the regime overestimated the turnout by 1-4 million people is immaterial because none of these protests will be heard in Caracas.
Events in Zambia and Venezuela may seem strikingly similar but the international community's response to these fascist takeovers has been markedly different. More than 40 countries protested
this week's mockery of a poll in Venezuela. Sanctions have been levelled against the ruling party, and even against Maduro himself, although sanctions will likely only hasten the country's economic collapse. Despite having the world's largest oil reserves, deflated oil prices continue to wreak havoc on what remains of Venezuela's economy. Supermarkets are empty, as are the pharmacies and hospitals.
Months of violent protests have utterly failed to alter Maduro's resolve. His response to the unrest has been as simplistic as it is banal: all opponents are insurrectionists and criminals. On the streets, demonstrators continue to march in the face of tear gas and bullets while their leaders continue to be arrested in the middle of the night.
Turkey's wayward path -
A year on from the failed coup, Erdoğan's Turkey is nigh unrecognisable. Hundreds of newspapers and television stations have been shuttered. Nearly 100,000 police officers, soldiers, teachers, lawyers, judges and journalists have been sacked. Civic life has been smothered under the weight of bellicose ethno-nationalism. And still the recriminations continue unabated. Just days ago another major shake-up
(read: purge) of Turkey's top military leaders was announced.
This week the mass trial of alleged
coup-plotters was begun. 486 soldiers (generals and privates alike) are to be tried in a specially-constructed courtroom on the outskirts of Ankara. These are the men responsible for the infamous scenes in Istanbul, the bombing of the parliament in Ankara, and the attempts on Erdoğan's life. They will be accused of a vast conspiracy with foreign powers, no matter how tenuous their link to the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.
With the judiciary already purged of moderates, do not expect justice for the putschists.