Zambia's flamboyant former President, Mr Kenneth Kaunda, has made a spectacular re-entry into active politics. He has thrown down the gauntlet to President Frederick Chiluba's Government and declared himself ready to contest next year's general elections. Anver Versi in London and Alfred K.K. Sayila in Lusaka assess Kaunda's come-back prospects.
Barely two years ago, Mr Kenneth Kaunda was a beaten man. He had not only lost the Presidency of Zambia, which he had held for 27 years, but the new Government seemed determined to humble and humiliate him.
He had been stripped of every vestige of status and he complained that he was rapidly becoming a pauper. His bright black eyes, famous for weeping copious tears in public during his reign in office, now had a haunted and confused look. The world outside State House, he was finding out, was a bleak and cold place.
But you cannot keep a man of Mr Kaunda's irrepressible energy, charm and ambition down for long. He used the goodwill he had created by gracefully accepting defeat in the 1991 election to launch himself on a talking tour of Europe. He set up a foundation and discovered that the press was still interested enough to interview him at length. He was through with politics, he reiterated time and again, but perhaps his long experience in African politics could be put to some use...?
But Zambian politics was not through with him. The Government of Mr Frederick Chiluba, which had stormed to victory in the last elections, was now rapidly running out of credibility. The economy was a shambles, unemployment was running at an all-time high and stinking wisps of corruption were emanating from the governing elite.
Even the style of government, typified by Chiluba's stern, uncompromising countenance, its petty vindictiveness against Mr Kaunda and other opposition figures and its increasingly threatening posture was alienating the public and the media. The new Government, borne into power on the shoulders of the country's white-collar unions and the middle classes, was now finding its support being rapidly whittled away.
The dream which had ushered the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (M-MD) into government had long vanished and only a bleak and austere future seemed to roll to the horizon.
It was time for a new vision - or the renewal of an old vision. And Mr Kenneth Kaunda, ever the man to choose his moment, stepped once again on to the political stage.
Around June last year, Mr Kaunda began a...