AFRICA/ZAMBIA - Bishops criticise brutal arrest of the country’s main Opposition leader

Thursday, 27 April 2017 politics   bishops  

Lusaka (Agenzia Fides)- The Police Service may not be used “to settle political scores”. This warning was issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Zambia (ZCCB) following the brutal arrest of Opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, accused of treason, because he is said to have blocked the auto cortege of President Edgar Lungu.
On 11 April police arrested Hichilema during a night raid on his home, breaking down the door and throwing tear gas grenades.
The Bishops faulted the massive and unnecessary force used for Hichilema’s arrest. “Would it not have been much more civilised and professional to deliver a summons to him containing a charge and ordering him to appear before the police to answer charges of alleged law breaking?” demands the ZCCB statement signed by chairman Archbishop Telesphore George Mpundu of Lusaka.
Hichilema, leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND) was defeated by a small margin by President Lungu in presidential elections on 11 August 2016 (see Fides 24/8/2016), characterized by tension before and during the vote. The Bishops, on several occasions, had denounced the climate of widespread political violence in the country (see Fides 1/6/2016). The brutal arrest of the main Opposition leader, according to a statement by Archbishop Mpundu, only heightens tension between the supporters of President Lungu’s party and those of the UPND. “We decry the bad habit which political parties in power assume immediately they make a government of using the Police Service to settle political scores and prevent their political rivals from organising, campaigning and therefore selling their vision of the country and nation to the electorate,”.
“It is the same story from one administration to the other and the present government is no exception” the statement reads and concludes criticizing the judiciary for “letting the country down by failing to stand up to political manipulation and corruption.”. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 27/4/2017)