A debut political biography examines Zambia’s current head of state.
In his book, Zambia’s deputy ambassador to Sweden introduces the world’s readers to his boss, Edgar Chagwa Lungu, a relatively new president attempting to unify the African country’s warring factions and to diversify the nation’s copper-dependent economy. The 60-year-old Lungu’s tenure follows that of his fierce and flamboyant mentor, Michael Sata. Appointed by his predecessor to effectively run the country in Sata’s absence, “the acting president did not have the luxury to sit down and cry or mourn” when news of the leader’s death reached Zambia. Mukwita was by his side as Lungu witnessed Vice President Guy Scott’s appointment as acting president on Sata’s death but chose not to contest this action lest he be accused of treason. Mukwita locates in this abnegation the seeds of Lungu’s genius. Throughout Lungu’s political career, “it was hard to see him coming, but that was always his secret weapon.” The narrative tracks his rise to power, the contested 2015 election against the wealthy businessman Hakainde Hichilema, and Lungu’s subsequent efforts to shore up the landlocked country’s economy in the face of falling copper prices and rising inflation. With a strong track record of professional competence and a unique team of rivals in his cabinet, Lungu has maintained his dignity during “what some political commentators have described as the fastest rise in political office” to serve his nation stalwartly and boldly both at home and abroad. Thoughtfulness and eloquence aside, this work is a campaign biography. The genre has its limitations. The subject’s favorite book must inevitably be the Bible, and the figure must possess no overriding hunger for power, just a steady drive to do what’s best for the country. This volume, however, aims for and achieves more than most such entries in the genre by repeatedly pausing to deliver thoughtful, researched, and exacting biographies of the major characters (the opposition figures are, generally, treated fairly) and to provide historical context for non-native readers. Mukwita’s efforts have paid off: this is a fine work to begin one’s reading about Zambia and the passions of its people.
A fond but cleareyed look at a steady leader and the African nation on his shoulders.