The on-going case that would have forced the country’s former president, Frederick Chiluba to repay the government tens of millions of dollars has been thrown out of court. Legal action was brought forward in accordance with an earlier case in British courts in ‘07, which found the former head of state guilty of corruption and had ruled that Chiluba and his associates had defrauded the Zambian government of US $46 million.
However the Zambian government has found it difficult to impose the ruling. ‘The question of enforcing the judgment of the courts of the United Kingdom directly by registration under the act does not arise,’ said Judge Evans Hamaunduin. ‘I have looked through our laws for such an order and have been unable to find any.’ The government has subsequently been unable to seize Chiluba’s assets.
Chiluba is the first African leader to face trial for corruption in his own country. When he came to power in ‘91, it was under the banner of grass roots democratic values; however critics note that this was soon tarnished by the sins of power.
His presidential legacy was subsequently marred by what some commentators have referred to as ‘Big Man’ politics. Chiluba’s bid to change the country’s constitution so that he could run for a third term proved to be the last straw for the people, who demonstrated significant opposition towards political flagrance and ousted their head of state in ‘02. Ironically it was in fact his appointed successor Levy Mwanawasa who launched the anti-corruption drive that later culminated in Chiluba’s demise.
While previous anti-corruption progress has indicated a move towards improved democratization in the region, the court’s decision to throw out the case may subsequently prove to be a disappointing blow to those who have been waiting for some concrete action.