The Capture of Capitan Solo After His Failed Coup Attempt In 1997

The Capture of Capitan Solo After His Failed Coup Attempt In 1997.

On October 28, 1997, the Zambian Government announced that a coup attempt that lasted a mere three hours had been suppressed without bloodshed and that a handful of military officers had been arrested.

Zambians woke in the early hours of October 1997 to a man calling himself Captain Solo announcing on the state radio that he had taken over the country, was dismissing the chiefs of the army and the police, and would give President Frederick T. J. Chiluba until 9 A.M. to surrender or be killed.

Shortly after that, gunfire was heard outside the radio and television complex and State House, the President’s residence. About 9 A.M., a military commander announced on another station in the complex that the coup had been quelled.

About 10 A.M., President Chiluba went on the air to say six plotters had been arrested, to thank loyal army units for ”a job well done” and to ask people to return to work.

Lusaka residents reached by phone said city traffic seemed normal by afternoon, although many businesses and the airport remained closed. By afternoon, more arrests were announced — one report went as high as 20. The broadcast center was reported slightly damaged by gunfire and its doors broken by soldiers searching for putschists.

Reports quoting army sources said Captain Solo was a Lieutenant or Captain Steven or Solomon Lungu, a former headmaster who joined the army’s political education program when Kenneth D. Kaunda was President. A local journalist, quoting an army commander, said Capt. Lungu had been about to be dismissed.

Some journalists said Captain Solo had sounded drunk when he claimed to head the National Redemption Council and to have been prompted by a vision of an angel to oust the Government for its ”corruption and criminality.” He called his coup Operation Born Again and said he would appoint a cabinet of military men.

Journalists said they knew of no particular animosity between Mr. Chiluba, a former trade unionist, and the military. The President is also a born-again Christian and often cites the will of God as his only political guide.

There is corruption, however. Several Cabinet ministers and police officials were charged with drug trafficking in 1994 and forced to resign. Diplomats say Mr. Chiluba’s coalition Government is a mix of honest and dishonest ministers.

Mr. Kaunda, who was visiting Johannesburg that day, told a South African television station he thought the Chiluba Government staged the coup as a pretext to crack down on its opponents.

Mr. Kaunda and Mr. Chiluba have been at each other’s throats for years, but many of the battles have been left unresolved.

In previous skirmishes, no matter how dramatic the day’s incident, the charges and countercharges stayed unsettled, and Zambia returned quickly to a semblance of normality.

 

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