Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Calm Before the Storm

It is 10:00 pm on Friday October 31st and the Zambian election results are about to be announced at midnight.  I wish we had internet access tomorrow so I could share with you who won and how it has affected Lusaka and the surrounding areas, but unfortunately, this will have posted before all of that stuff happens.  Since Zambians are so into politics (they follow their politics as well as U.S. politics very closely), we thought we would give you an update and peek into their presidential elections happening right now as I type.

In the last election (2006), there was widespread speculation of vote tampering by the MMD (the current ruling party).  I'm not saying that was the case, but it was the sentiments of many Zambians we have spoken with.  On the eve of the announcement, Michael Sata of the PF party was winning.  Then suddenly, the last count was announced and MMD representative Levy Mwanawasa was declared the winner.  Shortly after the announcement, riots broke out in many of the shanty compounds in Lusaka, including Garden which is less than a half a mile from our home.  The riot police were called in and Sata went on public radio and requested his supporters to stand down.  Eventually, everything settled down, but there are many many Zambians that believe that the true winner wasn't declared the President of Zambia.

In this year's election, Zambians are telling us that things are beginning to look very similar to the 2006 elections.  There is suspected vote tampering (i.e. Earlier this week, MMD staff were caught driving a truck carrying over 600,000 additional ballots.  Also, early today, an MMD representative was caught and is being investigated for putting pre-filled ballots into an already secure ballot box).  And Michael Sata, just like in 2006, is leading by a substantial margin (As of tonight at 8:30 pm, Michael Sata was leading by nearly 50,000 votes.  In fact, he has had a substantial lead all day).  But unlike in 2006 when Sata requested his supporters to stop the rioting and violence, rumor has it, he will not do the same this time.

This is what is beginning to concern us.  We're outsiders.  We don't know which political leader would best meet the needs of this country.  It could be Banda or it could be Sata.  But we are aware that if the 2008 elections end the same way as the 2006 elections, this presents the biggest opportunity for widespread rioting, violence and political unrest.  

We are well aware that it is the Lord who establishes rulers and authorities, and our prayer is that this appointment will come in peace, whoever it is.  And our prayer is, also, that whoever is appointed leader will fear God and govern the people by His wisdom.  Would you join us in this prayer?  Would you pray for our safety and the safety of our team?  We are less than a mile from where the votes are being counted and the announcement will be made.  And we are also less than 1/2 a mile from one of the largest compounds in Lusaka and one that is primarily a Sata supporter.  Pray that if violence breaks out that it will be contained as much as possible and that we will be safe in our homes.

One advantage of being in Zambia as opposed to some other countries in the world is that Zambians are usually a peace loving and tranquil people.  As one Zambian put it "We might get upset, but hey, we're Zambians.  We won't stay mad for too long."

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