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Tilyenji Kaunda returns to Zambia to continue dynasty

LUSAKA, Zambia (Reuters) -- Tilyenji Kaunda, son of founding Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda, has returned to Zambia from Zimbabwe to chart a political path expected to lead to a bid for the state presidency next year, analysts said.

Tilyenji Kaunda took up his position as opposition United National Independence Party (UNIP) secretary-general this week. He made a lightening trip to Zambia earlier in the year for the party election, and then returned to Harare, where he lives and runs a number of businesses.

Analysts said on Friday that Tilyenji Kaunda, Kenneth Kaunda's new political heir, would help energize the party, whose fortunes have been on the decline since his father's decision to quit active domestic politics earlier this year.

Kaunda said he had been forced to join politics by the murder last November of his brother Wezi -- at the time the most active of the Kaunda children who had widely been expected to seek the presidency.

Zambia holds general elections next year, when President Frederick Chiluba's second and final five-year term ends. There is no obvious successor within Chiluba's MMD, and he has complicated matters by banning debate on the subject.

"I believe the party is capable of challenging for the presidency next year. Will I be a candidate? I cannot say at the moment," Tilyenji Kaunda told a forum on Thursday night.

"What is certain is that I am going to lead a party reorganization that should culminate in victory at the polls."

But one senior aide, responding to questions on whether current UNIP leader Francis Nkhoma would be a candidate in the elections next year, replied: "UNIP's central committee has competent leaders, and we have the authority to substitute anyone if party members believe that the current leader cannot deliver the presidency."

Already, UNIP cadres have been calling for the removal of Nkhoma, elected to succeed Kenneth Kaunda six months ago. In his place, they want the younger Kaunda, who is banking on his father's support to end the MMD's 10-year reign.

Tilyenji Kaunda said of Chiluba: "He says he has improved the country, yet poverty has reached grinding levels and people have no access to education, basic health care, and in many cases even shelter. This government has wasted most of the resources Dr Kenneth Kaunda put in place."

Wezi Kaunda's alleged killers are on trial for his murder. Tilyeni Kaunda said the family remained "very bitter" about the loss, but that they would never seek vengeance over the death.

Analysts have installed Tilyenji Kaunda as a major contender for the presidency alongside opposition United Party for National Development leader Anderson Mazoka and Ben Mwila, Chiluba's cousin and former environment minister.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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