Zambia's church leaders are spearheading the effort to end born-again President Fredrick Chiluba's bid for a third term. But it is far from certain that this deeply religious nation in eastern Africa is ready to abandon its Christian president.

Slightly more than 50 percent of Zambians want Chiluba to pursue a third term in the November elections, says Mike Zulu, chairman of the National Organization for Civic Education, an independent research group. In late February, an alliance of church and civic leaders circulated the Oasis Declaration, a strongly worded message opposing a third term, among 10,700 Christian congregations.

Elected leaders from the Christian Council of Zambia, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, and the Zambia Episcopal Conference drafted the declaration in January. A broad group of influential civic organizations later joined the campaign.

The declaration urges Chiluba to "exercise statesmanship by unambiguously pledging to uphold, protect, and defend the constitution of Zambia and not contest the 2001 presidential elections." It appeals to Zambians to protect their democracy. But Chiluba has not openly rejected the prospect of running for a third term.

Ten years ago, Christian leaders played key roles in the peaceful ending of Kenneth Kaunda's 27-year presidency and ushering in Chiluba's. They read political messages from pulpits, advocating change and democracy, but also called for peace and reconciliation.

As a new president, Chiluba vigorously pushed through the Zambian National Assembly a constitutional amendment limiting the president to two successive five-year terms, "in the interest of democracy and good governance."

Most church and civic leaders today would give Chiluba, who once declared Zambia a "Christian nation," a failing grade because of the increased lawlessness and state corruption under his rule. Still, many church leaders hesitate to emphasize these issues, partly because Chiluba has opened the country to the gospel and brought them from the fringes to the center of Zambia's public affairs.

Teddy Kalongo, principal of United Theological College in Kitwe, credits "the Chiluba effect" for the United Church of Zambia's 1999 decision to embrace charismatic worship, "which is attracting young people." But Kalongo says as a result of the "the Chiluba effect," many Christians "firmly believe that all governments are God-ordained, [and they denounce] any attempts by the mainline churches to have a prophetic voice against state corruption."

Article continues below

Related Elsewhere

Christianity Today's earlier coverage of Zambia includes:
Weblog: TBN's Paul Crouch Gets Involved in Politics—Zambian Politics, That Is (Apr. 4, 2001)

Zambian Churches and Lawyers Oppose Presidential Plan for Third Term | Evangelicals, Catholics, and others unite against changing country's constitution. (Mar. 5, 2001)

Zambia's Churches Win Fight Against Anti-AIDS Ads | Church leaders are concerned that condom promotion encourages promiscuity. (Jan. 12, 2001)

Archbishop Caught in War of Words with Zambian Government | Pentecostal leader says government 'ineffective,' selfish. (Feb. 10, 2000)

Eight Years after Zambia Became Christian Nation, Title Not Convincing | Immorality and corruption on the rise, say church leaders (Jan. 18, 2000)

Zambia President Disillusions Christians (Mar. 2, 1998)

Other media coverage of Zambia's third-term controversy includes:

Chiluba's vice-president attends meeting to pray against third termBusiness Day (Apr. 12, 2001)

Zambian politicians fast against Chiluba's 3rd term — AFP (Apr. 11, 2001)

It's Up to the Will of the People to Make Laws, Says ChilubaPost of Zambia (Apr. 10, 2001)

Zambia's Anti-Third Force Exposes Plans to Suppress Dissent — Panafrican News Agency (Apr. 6, 2001)

Chiluba Turns To Benny Hinn Over 3rd TermPost of Zambia (Apr. 2, 2001)

'People Without Holy Spirit Are Tampering With Constitution'Post of Zambia (Mar 29, 2001)

There'll Be No 3rd Term, Declares Mongu Catholic Bishop DuffyPost of Zambia (Mar 29, 2001)

Zambian president bids for third term — BBC (Mar. 25, 2001)

Zambia's president now thinks third term may be just the ticket | At first, President Frederick Chiluba of Zambia was all for term limits. But now it appears that he—or influential people in his party—are trying to prolong his rule. — The New York Times (Mar. 2, 2001)

Chiluba justifies his third term bidPost of Zambia (Mar. 1, 2001)

Pastor Mumba urges the church to intervenePost of Zambia (Mar. 1, 2001)

Zambia wary of changing term limits — Associated Press (Feb. 28, 2001)

Zambian church opposes Chiluba campaignBusiness Day (Feb. 16, 2001)

Evangelical bishops join debate on Chiluba's presidency — Panafrican News Agency (Jan. 30, 2001)

Church criticizes Chiluba's third term agitatorsPost of Zambia (Jan. 4, 2001)

For more news about Zambia, see

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.