Zambia’s veteran opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has been sworn in as president in front of a packed stadium in the capital, Lusaka.
His election has raised the hopes of his counterparts in other African states that they too can overcome state repression and one day rise to power.
During a long political career that saw him fail in five previous bids to become president, Mr Hichilema was brutalised, tear-gassed and even detained for a traffic offence in 2017 that was deemed treasonous after his convoy failed to give way to the motorcade of outgoing President Edgar Lungu.
But in an extraordinary reversal of his fortunes, the man once declared an enemy of the state will be sworn in as Zambia’s seventh president after defeating Mr Lungu in their latest election duel on August12.
“It’s massively inspirational,” said Tanzanian opposition leader Tundu Lissu who survived an assassination attempt in 2017 after being shot 16 times by people he believes were state agents.
“Zambians have shown us it can be done, no matter what they put us through, no matter the odds,” he added.
Mr Lissu lost last year’s election to the late President John Magufuli, which he alleges was rigged.
He later fled the country as security officers planned to arrest him.
Some of his colleagues in the Chadema party, including Chairman Freeman Mbowe, were briefly detained.
In May, Mr Mbowe was charged with terrorism-related offences. His supporters say he is facing “political persecution” for campaigning for a new constitution.
According to Tanzanian opposition politician Zitto Kabwe, only a new constitution that guarantees the independence of the electoral commission will ensure the opposition has a fair chance in the next poll.
“In Zambia, the institutions of democracy seem to be [more] responsive to people’s will than in many parts of Africa.
“The fact that the army, the police, the intelligence services, the electoral commission would allow the will of the people to be superior is a very strong message sent to the African continent,” he added.
The ripple effects of this message have spread far and wide, especially in Zambia’s southern neighbour, Zimbabwe, where it has sparked frenzied exchanges between the main opposition politician, Nelson Chamisa, and officials of the ruling Zanu-PF party, which has been in power since independence in 1980. -BBC
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