Lusaka - Opposition to Zambian President Frederick Chiluba running for a third term grew on Wednesday as hundreds of people gathered here for a conference expected to formally reject the possible presidential move.
The conference hall in Lusaka was filled to capacity while scores of other citizens braved the rains and stayed outside the building, chanting anti-third term slogans.
The conference participants were drawn from a wide range of non-governmental organisations, religious groups and opposition parties.
"The church leadership is totally opposed to the incumbent president to go for a third term because it is not only unconstitutional but also undemocratic," said Reverend Violent Sampa-Bredt of the Christian Council of Zambia (CCZ), an umbrella body of protestant churches in Zambia.
Zambia's constitution limits the president to serving two consecutive five-year terms.
Chiluba's second term expires this year, and elections are expected before the year's end.
Chiluba has said that he would make his decision after people have exhausted the debate on the matter.
"We say no to third term," Sampa-Bredt said amid applause from the chanting crowd.
An umbrella group of women's organisations, known as the Non-Governmental Coordinating Organisations (Ngoco), pledged to stage a mass campaign in rural areas against Chiluba running again.
"We are going to take the message to the village because we represent the silent majority," Inonge Wina, NGOCO chairperson told the meeting, also attended by Zambian opposition leaders.
The Law Association of Zambia issued a strong statement categorically rejecting calls for a constitutional amendment to allow Chiluba another chance at the ballot box.
Some lawyers distributed Chiluba's speech that he delivered last year in which he announced that he was going to retire in 2001.
"To retire does not all depend on age, we must respect the law. If the law says you retire after two terms, even if you are 45 years of age accept and step down, so that you allow the process to continue," Chiluba had said.
The one-day conference is expected to come up with a declaration against a constitutional amendment allowing a third term.
Meanwhile, 300 opposition members were expected to appear in court Wednesday to answer charges of staging an anti-third term demonstration without a police permit, lawyer Sakwiba Sikota said. - Sapa-AFP