Zambia’s opposition leader urges supporters to avoid violence
The leader of Zambia’s main opposition party, Hakainde Hichilema, called on supporters this week to avoid political violence despite what the party said was extreme provocation by the ruling Patriotic Front ahead of the August 11 general election.
Hichilema, leader of the United Party for National Development, also urged the international community to monitor what he called human rights abuses by Zambian state institutions, like the police.
His remarks came after Geoffrey Mwamba, a leading member of the UPND, was arrested and charged last Wednesday with unlawful milita training. Police spokesperson, Charity Chanda, said officers recovered weapons, including machetes, a spear, eight rounds of ammunition and a gun, at Mwamba’s premises in the capital, Lusaka.
The UPND had been accused of training militias ahead of the polls. President Edgar Lungu was recently quoted by local media as saying he had intelligence reports that the UPND was training about 250 youths to engage in violence during the elections.
But Hichilema said that by arresting Mwamba and 21 other opposition party supporters, the PF was using state institutions to harass and intimidate UPND followers. He said Lungu appeared to have been unable to stop the violence, which he said, could escalate if not readily addressed.
“We have done this against the brutal and suppressive behavior of the ruling party, the PF, and the president, who has taken a decision to suppress citizens and unleash the police force on harmless and armless citizens,” Hichilema said.
“I’m aware that our citizens are in a position … to retaliate,” he said. “That’s why I called (on) them not to do that, because what President Lungu is trying to do is to instigate violence and then try to justify a call for a state of emergency, the consequence of which [is] to avoid the 11 August elections, and we don’t want him to create that environment.”
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