News / Africa

Priest in Politician’s Clothing Eyes Top Seat in Zambia

Roman Catholic priest Frank Bwalya (in red) and supporters hold red cards to display their displeasure with the government as they attend a rally in front of the National Assembly, in Lusaka, Zambia, March 22, 2011.Roman Catholic priest Frank Bwalya (in red) and supporters hold red cards to display their displeasure with the government as they attend a rally in front of the National Assembly, in Lusaka, Zambia, March 22, 2011.
x
Roman Catholic priest Frank Bwalya (in red) and supporters hold red cards to display their displeasure with the government as they attend a rally in front of the National Assembly, in Lusaka, Zambia, March 22, 2011.
Roman Catholic priest Frank Bwalya (in red) and supporters hold red cards to display their displeasure with the government as they attend a rally in front of the National Assembly, in Lusaka, Zambia, March 22, 2011.
Anita Powell
Zambia’s government is not delivering on its promises, says a prominent critic who used to support President Michael Sata. The Rev. Frank Bwalya, a Catholic priest, says Sata’s administration is cracking down on the opposition and on critics - and he says the public outrage is prompting him to trade in his clerical collar for a politician’s suit.

Bwalya pulls from the Bible to describe his home country of Zambia and the president he once supported, but now vigorously opposes.

“The promised land is still there. The problem is that Moses is refusing to step aside. And while he is resisting to step aside, he is becoming destructive," said Bwalya. "That is the problem. If he had not become destructive, we would have been patient, to say, let him go all the way and take him to the point where somebody else is supposed to take over. But now that he has become destructive we can not wait, to stop him. And by stopping him I do not mean to remove him by force. I do not mean that.”

Running for office

That is Bwalya’s way of saying he plans to run against Sata in 2016. He said his new party does not yet have a platform. In fact, it still has no name. But he said he wants to bring in new ideas and get rid of old ones, to reduce corruption and cut politicians’ perks, and to use experts to solve problems in the copper-rich nation.

In this way, he fits the mold of many African opposition movements, defined more by their opposition than by their positions.

Bwalya supported Sata when he ran in 2011. Bwalya recently joined a growing number of critics, however, who say the president has reneged on his promises to bring development and fight corruption, and has instead cracked down on the opposition.

Bwalya is not alone in making such allegations. Last year, the U.S. State Department documented unlawful killings, torture, arrests of critics and restrictions of freedoms in Zambia.

Why Sata changed his tune, said Bwalya, he does not know.

“It is a question that every Zambian is asking: ‘What has happened to the president? Is he hijacked or has hijacked himself?’ But we all do not know, to be very honest, why he has turned around like this," he said. "Why he has started doing the same things that made us support him to become president, those same things we condemned."

Taking exception

Zambia's Vice President Guy Scott said Bwalya is being overdramatic.  

“I mean, it is a little bit overwrought, overplayed, this argument. I mean, he is the president, he is supposed to govern the country. And we have a parliament, which is supposed to pass laws and so on and so forth," said Scott. "So, where you draw the line between authority and I suppose what you would call abuse of authority is really the question. And I do not think I see a very concrete definition of authority abused by our side, by our government or our president.”

Scott acknowledged that the southern African nation has human-rights issues to address, but said few can be attributed to Sata’s Patriotic Front.

“These are human-rights issues going way back before the election that brought us to power. Some of them have said, 'Yes, somebody should not have been locked up for two nights in jail, in police cells and so forth.' But the majority of these violations are two things: first of all, the majority of these violations are ongoing problems, like the conditions of police cells are a violation of human rights because it’s been 40 years, or nearly 50 years, since anyone maintained the water system in police stations. I mean, it is not us who suddenly created all the conditions that people are saying are abusive of human rights,” said Scott.

Bwalya's combination of being a politician in priest's clothing might unsettle some international-rights campaigners. He said that if he is elected president, he has no plans to change the country’s laws that criminalize homosexuality. He said he fully supports the church’s positions on birth control, but added that he will follow his Cabinet ministers’ policies on such issues even if they conflict with his faith.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs