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ON the fate­ful night Ves­pers Shimuzhila went to bed obliv­i­ous or per­haps fear­ing for the gath­er­ing clouds of ac­ri­mony brew­ing at the Univer­sity of Zam­bia cam­pus. She went to bed in the firm be­lief of safety from harm. But as she slept, the malev­o­lent forces con­spired and ul­ti­mately smoth­ered her young life. The same forces, dressed in black mourn­ing gear dis­played hyp­o­crit­i­cal, re­morse­less and revolting in­dig­na­tion at her re­quiem ser­vice at the church she would have dearly loved to at­tend had she lived. She did not live. Some of those in black garb wax­ing holy and sanc­ti­mo­nious were ring lead­ers, ready to harm in­no­cent cit­i­zens on that fate­ful day, had never in their lives en­tered a church but took the macabre op­por­tu­nity of a death to show in­dig­na­tion. We are not moved by pent-up emo­tions and wish to em­pha­sise that those re­spon­si­ble for the death of Ves­pers from which ever camp must be brought to book. It does not mat­ter if it is out­siders who trans­ported tyres to burn dur­ing the riot, if it’s stu­dents who con­spired to ig­nite a not so spon­ta­neous riot or it is in­deed the po­lice who acted ex­ces­sively, let each cul­prit re­ceive their just re­wards. In this re­gard, we de­mand for an im­par­tial in­quiry con­ducted by in­de­pen­dent par­ties not in­volved in any way in the fra­cas. It should not be UNZA au­thor­i­ties, the po­lice and least of all the stu­dents that may have par­tic­i­pated in this ac­ces­sory to mur­der. No­body, not a univer­sity stu­dent should go to bed fear­ing to have their life snuffed out by the reckless con­duct of in­di­vid­u­als whose de­sire is to cause harm against in­no­cent cit­i­zens, be they mo­torists, fel­low stu­dents or in­deed any hap­less vic­tim who falls in their way. We fully sup­port the no­tion of an in­quest that will de­ter­mine the cir­cum­stances un­der which Ves­pers died, be­cause cir­cum­stances are such that there are many con­flict­ing sto­ries which are some­times con­tra­dic­tory. What is clear how­ever, is that Ves­pers was sleep­ing in her room and was not a par­tic­i­pant to the riot. She died, from all spec­u­la­tion, from smoke in­hala­tion and there were two sources of smoke. The first was tear­gas of course, which po­lice are re­ported to have dis­charged. But more in­sid­i­ously was the fire in room 21 whose ori­gin has yet to be ex­plained. In fact two rooms have been re­ported to have been gut­ted. It is dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand how this con­fla­gra­tion was ig­nited and why it should have been in Oc­to­ber, a women’s hos­tel in which most fe­males stu­dents were cow­er­ing away from the con­flict. We would have un­der­stood if the tear­gas was at the ru­ins where most male par­tic­i­pants would have re­treated but this was not the case. It is our sin­cere hope that be­tween the post­mortem re­sults, in­quest and in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the truth will be estab­lished. We can­not as yet rule out the in­volve­ment of a third force that spon­sored the may­hem, con­sid­er­ing that sub­stan­tial re­sources were re­quired to fi­nance the var­i­ous as­pects of the ac­tiv­ity in­clud­ing the pur­chase of used tyres used to set alight the Great East Road.

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