In 1991, Frederick Chiluba, as Zambia's newly elected evangelical president, declared the southern African country of 10 million a "Christian nation." He promised to fight corruption and to infuse biblical values into the country's political life.

But today, outspoken critics—increasingly including some evangelicals—say the 54-year-old Chiluba is vindictive against political opponents and tolerates corruption within the government.

Critics see a wide gap between Chiluba's religious rhetoric and his political practices. "Chiluba is saying good words but doing evil deeds," says Akashambatwa Lewanika, who served in Chiluba's cabinet in 1991 and is now an opposition leader. "He is proclaiming universal Christian love, but persecuting [the opposition] with personal hatred and vicious vengeance."

Chiluba has come to his own defense. When the Zambian National Assembly opened in January, Chiluba said, "My government has clearly demonstrated its determination to change the face of this country for good and the better."

VINDICTIVE POLITICS? Critics cite Chiluba's treatment of 73-year-old Kenneth Kaunda, who led the country for its first 27 years, as evidence of vindictiveness.

Kaunda, irked by a Chiluba-endorsed law that barred him from running in the 1996 elections, mounted an international campaign to discredit Chiluba's rule. On several occasions, Kaunda's statements appeared to incite public disorder. In August, Kaunda suffered injuries in a confrontation with police, and he claimed Chiluba had plotted an attempt on his life, a charge the president has denied.

Then, in October, Kaunda predicted that an "explosion" would rock the country. A few ...

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