In 2011, there is a new presidential election in Zambia. The incumbent president, Rupiah Banda of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), is hoping to win. The two largest opposition parties, the Patriotic Front (PF) and the United Party for National Development (UPND), have entered into a coalition to create a common front against the MMD. But the opposition has not yet formed a common platform or appointed a joint presidential candidate, and there are doubts about how strong the coalition is.

In the previous elections in 2001 and 2006, MMD has won by a significant proportion of the votes in rural areas, while PF has had most of the votes in the urban areas. The last supplementary election to the National Assembly caused some violent riots. This has created some fear that the election campaign may be more troubling than previous years. Zambia has previously had quiet election campaigns and the country has no violent internal conflicts.

Corruption

Since Rupiah Banda took over the presidential power following Levy Mwanawasa’s (MMD) death in 2008, there seems to have been less focus on fighting corruption, while several major corruption cases have rolled up. In 2009, several employees in the Ministry of Health were suspended and brought to justice, accused of financial default of around $ 5 million. This led to several donor countries, including the Netherlands and Sweden, stopping their contributions to the health budget. 55 percent of the budget is covered by development aid. The Global Fund to Fight HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria has withheld a $ 120 million payment to the Department of Health since August 2009, but has maintained support for civil society. The funding from the Fund will, for the time being, be managed by the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP). This weakens both people’s faith in the authorities and the citizens’ health services. Former President Fredrik Chiluba was acquitted of corruption charges in Zambian courts, and it is speculated that the authorities have influenced this ruling since he was convicted of similar circumstances in a London trial. There he was convicted of defaults on public funds during his time as president. Chiluba is trying to make this judgment invalid.

Resignations and economic growth

Zambia also felt the consequences of the international financial crisis, with major layoffs, especially in the mining industry. Now prices for copper, the country’s largest export commodity, have risen again, but so far only a few jobs have been restored. The ordinary Zambian citizen has also noticed increased prices for food and gasoline, among other things. Some areas in Zambia have been subject to flooding and drought over the past year, which has had tragic consequences for hundreds of thousands of people.

The newly revised taxation agreements with the mining industry, which gave the authorities an income from copper mining, were changed in 2009, and the Zambian authorities now receive very little revenue from the country’s natural resources. China is a major investor and an important partner in business development and investment in Zambia. Over the past year, the Zambian authorities have opened so-called export development zones, areas with good business development conditions and low taxes. China is also an important player here.

Health and rights

Zambia has one of the highest figures in the world in terms of maternal mortality, a challenge the authorities are struggling to meet. In 2009, health personnel at several hospitals went on strike for increased wages and better conditions. According to Digopaul,  Zambia is also among the countries with the highest proportion of HIV infected. After major focus from national and international teams, they have now managed to reduce the incidence of HIV from 15.6 percent in 2002 to 14.3 percent in 2008. HIV medicines are free, but of the around 200,000 in need of medicines, it was at the exit of 2005, only about 50,000 received it, according to estimates from Caritas. With a dispersed settlement, it is very difficult to ensure equal access to medicines and health services for everyone.

Zambia is one of many African countries that have criminalized sex between men. The Penal Code has a limit of up to 14 years in prison for homosexuality. No one has yet been brought to justice, but “gay” is often used as a slander in the political debate, as well as threats that “we know who you are.” This makes the situation tense and it is very difficult to live openly as a gay, lesbian or trans person. The legislation also has consequences for the HIV epidemic. Condoms are not allowed in prisons because of the criminalization of sex between men. Studies show that the proportion of HIV infected in prisons is much higher than in the rest of the population, making prisons a high risk area for infection. The National Council for the Prevention of HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis, NAC,

Civil society

In 2009, the authorities approved legislation to regulate civil society. Civil society has long feared this law and had previously managed to get it exposed. The legislation means, among other things, that organizations must re-register. Organizations that work with rights work, are in opposition to the authorities or work on sensitive issues are now feeling even more vulnerable. It is feared that the authorities will use the law to shut down organizations that are critical of the authorities.

There is, in part, a tense mood between private media and the authorities, where filth, sometimes both ways, characterizes the situation. The public sector owns most of the newspapers, radio and television, although there are some private players. The authorities are now reviewing new legislation to regulate the media.

Education

Zambia has in recent years significantly increased the proportion of children in primary school through the international initiative Education for All. There are still many who do not complete and it is a great challenge to get qualified teachers. The quantity seems to have gone beyond the quality. Zambia has three public universities and a number of private educational institutions. Around 70 percent of the students receive state scholarships. The universities produce important knowledge for a number of sectors, but struggle with high debt and poor material. However, the authorities show that education is a priority, having allocated 19.9 percent of the state budget for 2010 to this sector. Students experience a restriction on freedom of speech, and demonstrations are hard-pressed. In 2008, a student was killed when police intervened in a demonstration and fired sharply. In 2009, three student leaders at one of the universities were expelled three months before the final exam on their five-year course.

Country facts:

Area: 752 612 km2 (17th largest)

Population: 12.6 million

Population density: 17 per km

Urban population: 35 percent

Largest city: Lusaka – approx. 1.33 million

GDP per capita: $ 1144

Economic growth: 6.3 percent

HDI Position: 164