Police and demonstrators clashed late Monday in the Zambian capital after Guy Scott, a white Zambian who is now acting president, fired the secretary general of the ruling Patriotic Front party, HuffingtonPost reports.
Scott said Tuesday he’d changed his mind about dismissing Edgar Lungu, the ruling party’s chief, in a effort to defuse political conflict that triggered overnight riots.
Lungu was restored as secretary general of the Patriotic Front after being fired following the death Oct. 28 of President Michael Sata. The reinstatement was announced by Scott and Lungu.
Sata, 77, died in a London hospital after a long illness.
Scott was chosen by Zambia’s cabinet to take over as acting president from Lungu after Sata died, according to a Telegraph video. Scott called military chiefs on the phone after Sata’s death, reportedly to ask for their support, and said he has the backing of the attorney general as well as cabinet.
Security was been stepped up around the acting president and military snipers stationed on the roof of the public broadcaster, ostensibly to ward off a coup, according to the Telegraph video.
Scott changed his mind about firing Lungu after a heated meeting in which senior party members urged Scott to reinstate him, HuffingtonPost reports. Lungu is also minister of defense and justice and is considered a possible presidential candidate. Under the constitution, Zambia must hold a presidential election within 90 days of a president’s death.
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Former Vice President Scott cannot run for president because his parents were not Zambian by birth or descent. He has also said he is not interested in the post.
The riots broke out Monday night in several places in Lusaka, including the University of Zambia and a government building designated as a place for Sata’s mourners to gather, witnesses said. Angry over Lungu’s dismissal, protesters descended on the building armed with machetes, stones and other weapons, Huffington Post reports. Police fired tear gas to clear demonstrators and by early Tuesday, order was restored.
Lungu said Scott’s act was illegal and accused Scott, who is of Scottish descent, of “insulting our culture.” Lungu was acting president when Sata died in London, according to Huffington Post.
Protesters warned they could return to the streets.
Moses Siwali, spokesman for the home affairs ministry, urged political groups to resolve the situation peacefully.
“We don’t want Zambia to go into turmoil,” he said.
Scott, the acting president, was causing confusion, protester Mary Tembo told the HuffingtonPost. She urged him to “go to Scotland,” saying Zambians want to mourn their president in peace.