Nomsa Maseko

A presidential by-election will be held in Zambia on 20 January after former leader Michael Sata died in office last year. Here are five things you need to know about the poll.

1: Medical tests

After the recent deaths of two serving presidents, there have been calls for the four presidential candidates - Edgar Lungu, Hakainde Hichilema, Edith Nawakwi and Nevers Mumba, who are all in their 50s - to undergo medical tests to prove they are fit to hold office. The debate was sparked by Chongwe MP Sylvia Masebo, who defected from the governing Patriotic Front (PF) to opposition candidate Mr Hichilema. She accused Mr Lungu of being physically unfit to hold office and challenged him to take medical tests.  His spokesman said Mr Lungu was ready to take any tests, any time. It is not known if he has done so.

2: Beyond race?

Guy Scott, a white Zambian of Scottish descent, was appointed interim president a day after Mr Sata died.A section of Zambia's constitution known as the indigenous clause prohibited the 70-year-old from contesting the election, on the grounds that his parents were not born in Zambia.

Much was made by the international media about him being mainland Africa's first white president for 20 years but for many ordinary Zambians, his skin colour didn't seem to matter. Many said they saw him simply as Zambian.

Mr Scott has been a major political player since the 1990s, shifting from party to party until he ended up in the PF, as Mr Sata's running mate. The two were known to be close friends.

His relationship with PF's presidential candidate, Edgar Lungu, has not been good. A disagreement burst into the open when Mr Scott sacked Mr Lungu as party secretary-general. He was forced to reinstate him shortly afterwards when other party figures objected.

3: Friends with China

Mandarin is taught in many government schools in Zambia. This is an indication of China's deep economic ties to Africa's copper giant but the relationship has not been without controversy.

There are allegations that Chinese mining companies are exploiting locals by paying poor wages. Mr Sata won the 2011 elections partly by campaigning against foreign companies exploiting Zambian workers. When he was in office, the close economic links continued.

China's influence on Zambia was also visible during last year's jubilee celebrations. A Chinese company was hired to lead the commemorations by teaching Zambians martial arts choreography.

4: Two-year mandate

Elections in Zambia are held every five years. So whoever wins these polls will be in office for less than two years, leading up to the general election in 2016. Zambia has a vibrant democracy, with several different parties presenting a strong challenge to the governing party. Elections have been held regularly since the end of one-party rule in 1991. Zambians now expect their leaders to leave office peacefully.

5: After Kaunda

Long-time leader Kenneth Kaunda, who left office in 1991, has so far outlasted all but one of his permanent successors. Two presidents died in office, one died after standing down and the fourth, Rupiah Banda, is still alive.

Mr Kaunda, born in 1924, is himself still going strong as he approaches his 91st birthday.  Another oddity is that each successive Zambian president has served a shorter time in office than his predecessor.

Mr Kaunda leads the way with 27 years and nine days. He is followed by Frederick Chiluba (10 years, 61 days), Levy Mwanawasa (six years, 230 days), Mr Banda (three years, 86 days) and Mr Sata (three years, 35 days). Were the winner of this election to then lose the 2016 poll, that trend would continue.–BBC

African state where a grenade is cheaper than a coke

The grenades come from China, or Bulgaria. The mortars are Sudanese. The rocket launchers were made in Iran. The bullets are British, or Belgian or Czech. Spain and Cameroon provided the shotgun rounds. And so it goes on.

A detailed survey of the weapons currently circulating in the Central African Republic (CAR) offers some intriguing insights into the global arms industry, and the extent to which its output continues to find its way - legally or otherwise - into the hands of rebel armies. The impact of the weapons trade can be lasting and devastating.

When arms were obtained by the Seleka - a coalition of largely Muslim insurgents that swept to power in CAR in 2013 - a civil war was triggered that went on to displace hundreds of thousands of civilians.

'Small and easily concealed'

"Type 82-2 hand grenades are among the most widespread military item in CAR," says the report, compiled by Britain's Conflict Armament Research group, for the European Union.

"They are so common that they reportedly can be bought for the equivalent of around $0.50-$1.00 (£0.33-£0.66) each, less than a bottle of Coca-Cola," the report says.  "Small and easily concealed, they have had a significant security impact, causing civilian injuries and deaths in Bangui and elsewhere throughout 2014."

One batch of more than 25,000 Type 82.-2 grenades was traced by researchers to a 2006 consignment, manufactured in China, and - according to the packaging - destined for the "Royal Nepalese Army Headquarters". The Nepalese army "insist they have never used grenades of this kind".


Some of the other weapons were looted from government arsenals. Others were smuggled, in the hands of foreign mercenaries, across porous borders. But many appear to have been flown into CAR by neighbouring states - including Sudan.

"The new 2013 shipments included at least two deliveries of weapons by air from Sudan to Bangui," said the report.

"In several cases, Chinese and (suspected) Iranian ammunition present in CAR appears to have been re-transferred from Sudan. In the case of China, this may violate end-user agreements between the governments of China and Sudan."  But it should be noted that Sudan's shipments came before a UN arms embargo was imposed on the Seleka at the end of 2013.

"Regardless of where the guns come from, the end result is clear: the Seleka, through their power grab, helped flood a region already overloaded with arms. They committed serious human rights abuses, including the killings of women and children," said Lewis Mudge from Human Rights Watch.–BBC