Zam­bian op­po­si­tion leader Hichilema ar­rested

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion/worldwide -

LUSAKA — Zam­bia’s op­po­si­tion leader and de­feated pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hakainde Hichilema was ar­rested on Wed­nes­day on charges of sedi­tion and un­law­ful as­sem­bly, po­lice said.

Hichilema, who dis­puted the re­sult of Au­gust polls which re-elected Pres­i­dent Edgar Lungu, was de­tained along with Ge­of­frey Mwamba, the vicepres­i­dent of his United Party for Na­tional De­vel­op­ment (UPND).

“They have been ar­rested and de­tained for sedi­tious prac­tices and un­law­ful as­sem­bly,” Char­ity Katanga, po­lice com­mis­sioner for Cop­per­belt province, said, adding that they were sup­posed to ap­pear in court yes­ter­day.

The al­leged un­law­ful as­sem­bly took place on Septem­ber 26 in the cen­tral city of Mpongwe, in the heart of the min­eral-rich province.

Sixty-one of their sup­port­ers have also been ar­rested while protest­ing the party lead­ers’ ar­rest, and charged with con­duct likely to cause a breach of the peace, Katanga said.

Hichilema, a wealthy busi­ness­man who has run five times for pres­i­dent, and his deputy are be­ing held in Luan­shya, a min­ing town where they had tried to visit a num­ber of de­tained sup­port­ers.

Hichilema and Mwamba had last week been blocked from vis­it­ing their sup­port­ers in pri­son and had gone to meet their families in­stead.

“Af­ter more than three hours of so-called in­ter­ro­ga­tion at Luan­shya po­lice sta­tion . . . we have been ar­rested and (are) cur­rently in de­ten­tion for al­leged sedi­tious prac­tices and un­law­ful as­sem­bly,” Hichilema wrote on his Face­book page.

“We knew it would come to this as a way to si­lence our voices and weaken our de­mands for jus­tice to pre­vail over the stolen elec­tions,” he added.

“But that will not stop our re­solve for a free Zam­bia where peo­ple’s free­doms and lib­er­ties have to be re­claimed un­der a pros­per­ous and united coun­try.”

Hichilema has ac­cused Lungu, the coun­try’s elec­tion com­mis­sion and court judges of all be­ing guilty of fraud over the Au­gust 11 elec­tion, which Lungu won by barely 100 000 votes.

Lungu (59) first took of­fice last year af­ter beat­ing Hichilema in a snap elec­tion, and has since faced fall­ing prices for cop­per — the coun­try’s key ex­port — soar­ing un­em­ploy­ment and in­fla­tion ris­ing to over 20 per­cent.

Zam­bia is known for its rel­a­tive sta­bil­ity but the elec­tion cam­paign was marked by clashes be­tween sup­port­ers of Lungu’s Pa­tri­otic Front (PF) and Hichilema’s UPND.

Zam­bia last held a peace­ful transfer of power to an op­po­si­tion party in 2011 when Michael Sata be­came pres­i­dent.

Sata died in 2014, and the 2015 elec­tion gave Lungu the right to fin­ish Sata’s term.

Lungu, a trained mil­i­tary of­fi­cer and lawyer, has used his short stint in of­fice to present him­self as the right­ful heir to Sata, who en­joyed wide­spread pop­u­lar­ity. — AFP

Hakainde Hichilema

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