AFRICA/ZAMBIA - Appeal of the Episcopate for the impartiality of the police in the face of an incandescent political and social crisis

Saturday, 9 January 2021 justice   elections   bishops  

Lusaka (Agenzia Fides) - "We hereby condemn in the strongest terms possible the killing of two citizens by the police who acted against their key mandate of safeguarding the lives of Zambians, irrespective of their political, social, cultural and religious affiliation" the Bishops of Zambia say in a statement, in which they take a stand after the death on December 23, of two participants in a demonstration held in front of the police headquarters in the capital, Lusaka.
"Those given the responsibility of protecting and defending people’s rights are the very people who are apparently abusing and abrogating them and seriously sowing seeds of disunity. This is indeed a matter of great concern to all well-meaning citizens", the statement reads, signed on behalf of the Zambian Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB), by its President, His Exc. Mgr. George Lungu, Bishop of Chipata.
"The police officers allegedly shot at unarmed people who gathered to show solidarity with the opposition leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND), Mr. Hakainde Hichilema", the statement said. The Bishops appeal to the Head of the State, President Edgar Lungu, "to rise above partisan politics and provide the much-needed leadership as a statesman and ensure that a detailed investigation is immediately launched to ascertain both the person behind the command to use excessive force to shoot and the officer that executed the said order and bring the culprit to book".
The Bishops reminded the Minister of Home Affairs and the Police Command that their primary mission is to protect the lives and property of all citizens: "Ensure that within the rank and file of the Zambia Police Service, there is high level of professionalism, which includes the determination of the kind of force to use against unarmed and peaceful citizens (and) allow the police to perform their duties without waiting for orders from politicians and without fearing the wrath of political cadres".
Political tensions are increasing in Zambia in view of the elections scheduled for August, due to the economic crisis and the pandemic, which has caused the non-payment of international debts (see Fides, 29/12/2020). To meet this debt, the country requested a loan from the International Monetary Fund.
Opposition leader Hichilema was arrested and charged with treason in 2017, months after an election narrowly won by President Lungu. He was released after four months in detention and now leads the opposition front. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 9/1/2021)