Africa

Edgar Lungu collapse: Zambian president 'needs treatment abroad'

Patriotic Front (PF) Presidential candidate Edgar Lungu speaks at a rally in Lusaka on 19 January 2015 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Edgar Lungu is to serve as president until 2016 when a new election will be called

Zambian President Edgar Lungu has to undergo throat surgery abroad, his doctors say, after earlier reporting that he had malaria.

Mr Lungu, elected in January, collapsed while giving a speech to commemorate International Women's Day in the capital, Lusaka, on Sunday.

During the campaign, Mr Lungu's allies denied reports he was sick and he offered to undergo a medical check-up.

The election was called following the death of his predecessor Michael Sata.

Mr Lungu, 58, was treated at a local hospital and his office issued a report assuring Zambians that the president was "feeling better" and would return home on Monday.

No questions allowed

A statement from the president's office said he was suffering from a narrowing of the oesophagus which needed "high-tech medical procedure which is currently unavailable in Zambia".

"Therefore he has been referred for specialised treatment abroad," it said.

It said this was a recurrence of a condition for which he had been treated 30 years ago.

The statement did not specify when Mr Lungu would have the operation and journalists were not allowed to ask questions at the press briefing.

Mr Lungu, a former defence minister, is due to serve the remainder of Mr Sata's term, until elections in 2016.

While Mr Sata was president, the government was accused of covering up his ill-health.

Journalist Meluse Kapatamoyo says that after the deaths of two serving presidents in six years, some Zambians are concerned about Mr Lungu's condition.

Mr Sata died while in London and Ms Kapatamoyo says Zambians are likely to be even more anxious when Mr Lungu goes abroad for treatment.

However, she says that some people have been reassured by the regular medical updates on Mr Lungu's condition.

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