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Zambia's president to seek parliament backing for state of emergency

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Zambian President Edgar Lungu said on Wednesday he would seek parliament's approval to impose a state of emergency after fire gutted the country's biggest market in what he said was politically motivated arson.

Political tensions in Zambia, seen as one of Africa's more stable and functional democracies, have been rising since the arrest on treason charges of main opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, who narrowly lost to Lungu in a bruising election last year.


Hichilema, along with five others, is accused of trying to overthrow the government after a column of opposition vehicles failed to make way for the president's motorcade.

Under Zambian state of emergency laws, police can prohibit public meetings, close roads, impose curfews and restrict movements.

The country's last state of emergency was declared in 1997 by then president Frederick Chiluba after an attempted coup. It was lifted the following year.

Lungu said the fire, which destroyed the southern part of City Market in the capital Lusaka on Tuesday, "bordered on economic sabotage" and was aimed at making the country ungovernable.

Nobody was killed or injured in the blaze.