Zambian President Lungu Says He May Declare State of Emergency

(Bloomberg) -- Zambia’s president said he may declare a state of emergency in Africa’s second-biggest copper producer because of turmoil following the arrest of the nation’s main opposition leader on treason charges.

“Why are they burning markets? Why are they burning court houses? Why are they burning government buildings?” Edgar Lungu said in a speech in Livingstone, southern Zambia, that was broadcast on his Facebook page. “If you force us to call a state of emergency we will go that way.”

Political tensions have been high since Zambia’s general elections last year, the outcome of which was disputed by the opposition. They escalated further with opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema’s April 12 arrest, which took place after a convoy he was traveling in failed to pull off the road for Lungu’s motorcade.

Fires have been reported at two courthouses, a university and two markets in the days since. Lungu said Thursday that a state of emergency could be applied only to areas where there is “trouble.”

Hichilema first appeared in court on April 18, with proceedings adjourned three times and his next appearance set for April 26. Treason suspects aren’t allowed bail, and the maximum penalty is death.