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Once-stable Zambia Tense as President Invokes Extra Powers

Zambian President Edgar Lungu gives a press briefing July 6, 2017, at the Zambian State House in Lusaka. Lungu on Thursday justified invoking a state of emergency by alleging that opposition parties were behind a string of arson attacks intended "to create terror and panic."

These are edgy times in Zambia, once considered one of Africa's most stable democracies.

President Edgar Lungu this week announced extra police powers to deal with what he says are growing security challenges, including a fire that destroyed the biggest market in the capital, Lusaka.

The cause of the fire has not been determined, leading critics to accuse Lungu of intensifying a purported crackdown on legitimate political opposition. Lungu says he is not targeting “political players.”

Hakainde Hichilema, the main opposition leader, has been charged with treason after he was accused of obstructing Lungu's motorcade with his own convoy earlier this year.

A spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says problems in the southern African nation should be addressed through dialogue “among all stakeholders, including with the opposition.”

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