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Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa appears to have acceded to pressure from church and civic lobby groups in his country for him to urgently address the problem of high-profile corruption—a major threat to the Southern African nation's ailing economy.

Viewed by many in his own country as a puppet of former president Frederick Chiluba, Mwanawasa astounded many when he asked Zambia's parliament on July 12 to lift his predecessor's immunity to face trial for corruption and abuse of office.

"Chiluba and his senior aides must answer certain charges, they must explain," Mwanawasa told parliamentarians.

About a month earlier, Mwanawasa had come under attack from leaders of the (Roman Catholic) Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC), the Christian Council of Zambia (CCZ) and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) who accused him of condoning corruption and failing to deliver on his pre-election pledge to turn around Zambia's economy.

Citing a catalogue of cases, Mwanawasa told the parliament that Chiluba had ordered Zambia's Treasury to pay a Belgium-based Congolese businessman a deposit of $20.5 million for the supply of armaments never delivered to Zambia.

The new president charged further that Chiluba, a former trade unionist, also paid from a special bank account millions of dollars to members of his family and associates and that he failed to account for $47 million during the privatization of Roan Antelope Mining Corporation, a Zambian company.

"It is up to you to take action," Mwanawasa told parliament. "I have offered you the facts."

Father Ignatius Mwebe, the ZEC secretary-general had previously been quoted as saying in Edicisa News, a newsletter of the Ecumenical Documentation and Information Centre for Southern Africa: "Since President ...

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Zambian President Takes Action After Churches Criticize Him
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August 2002

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