Zambia: Pre-Election Maneuvers Leave Two Dead in Street Altercation between Police and Opposition Supporters in Lusaka

The festive period has turned sour for Zambia, as the police on Wednesday, December 23, turned the country’s capital Lusaka, into a bloodbath.


With just a day before Christians in Zambia join the rest of the world to celebrate Christmas, the southern African country is mourning the death of two innocent civilians, shot when police were trying to stop a procession by supporters of the country’s largest opposition political party-the United Party for National Development (UPND).


The dead were identified as Nsama Nsama, a public prosecutor with the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) and Joseph Kaunda a suspected UPND sympathizer. (Democratic Party President Harry Kalaba condemns killing of two civilians).


Mr. Nsama is said to have left his office for a snack, at a restaurant located about 20 meters away from the NPA head offices, while Mr. Kaunda was walking on the road where hundreds of UPND supporters were holding a procession.


Mr. Nsama Nsama, Public Prosecutor hit fatally by a stray bullet in Lusaka, Zambia December 23


UPND party supporters in their hundreds accompanied their party leader, Hakainde Hichilema to the Police Headquarters, where he had been summoned for questioning in a case that was yet to be determined.


In a spirit of solidarity with their party leader, the UPND supporters matched to Police Headquarters chanting slogans of “we want peace”. The Police then opened fire to disperse the crowd.  


Explaining the decision to shoot, Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja in a statement availed to Timescape Magazine indicated that prior to Mr. Hichilema’s appearance, Police as well as the Minister of Home Affairs, Steven Kamponygo, had advised people to stay away to avoid a breakdown in law and order.

Mr. Kanganja said investigations in the shooting have been instituted to establish the circumstances under which the two victims were shot.

“We shall wait for forensic examinations, so as to ascertain what type of firearm was used and the public shall be informed on the findings and way forward,” he said.

Mr. Kanganja also said that police officers would remain on the ground to monitor the security situation. He has also appealed to members of the public to remain calm during this period and not take the law into their own hands.

According to the Police Act which speaks to the power to use firearms, a police officer may, use firearms which have been issued to him, against a person in lawful custody charged with or convicted of a felony when such person is escaping or attempting to escape. (Public Prosecutor, Nsama Nsama was having breakfast at a nearby restaurant when his life was cut short by a stray bullet).

Police officers can also use firearms against a person who by force attempts to rescue another from lawful custody. The Police Act also says that a firearm can be used against a person who by force prevents or attempts to prevent a lawful arrest.

In view of the above, stakeholders have condemned the killings and want the government to thoroughly investigate the shootings. The Human Rights Commission wants the Government to immediately launch an inquest to establish the identity of individuals responsible for the shooting.

The Human Rights Commission spokesperson, Mweelwa Muleya told Timescape Magazine that preliminary investigations by the Commission have established that Mr. Nsama and Kafue were shot dead, about 10 meters from each other near the NPA offices.

“The Commission is shocked at the indiscriminate use of live ammunition by the Police in an area surrounded by public offices such as Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Justice, the British High Commission, and other private places such as the Restaurant where the majority of workers around go to eat from. The unnecessary display of warfare tactics and the use of excessive force by the Police in the recent past has been unprecedented,” he says.

Mr. Muleya has noted that the Commission witnessed the Police firing teargas canisters at a peaceful crowd at the High Court Grounds and some officers physically chasing individuals around the Cabinet Office area.

She has added that some workers in offices near Cabinet Office, including Human Rights Commission offices, were choked by teargas in their offices. 

“Gunshot sounds were heard blasting as police officers dispersed the crowd and some security officers found at the scene intimated to the Commission that the sound was that of live bullets.  The killing of Mr. Nsama is a classic example of the unreasonableness, unjustifiable, unnecessary, reckless, and arbitrary use of excessive force by the Zambia Police Service,” she says.

Other stakeholders like the United States Embassy in Zambia came out to condemn the death of civilians. According to the information posted on their website, the US Embassy has called for a full investigation to bring to justice those responsible for the deaths. 


“We further encourage that all Zambians be allowed to peacefully assemble and express their views without violence or interference. We urge a de-escalation of violence and tensions, in order to allow all citizens to peacefully exercise their citizenship right,’’ reads the statement in part.  


The Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) is equally incensed with the shooting, stating that it is sad that the very institution entrusted to safeguard life is at the forefront of taking it.


In a statement signed by LAZ’s Honorary Secretary Sokwani Peter Chilembo, the lawyers’ association notes that it has not seen any justification for using live ammunition against unarmed members of the public.      


“And unfortunately, the perpetrators neither take responsibility nor are they brought to account for the reckless affront on the right to life guaranteed under the Constitution,” he says.


LAZ called on the Police Command to inspire public confidence by ensuring those police officers are not used to aggravate a negatively charged political atmosphere, as the country draws closer to the 2021 general elections.


Meanwhile, Esther Mwaata Katongo, the Zambia Police Spokesperson says Police in Lusaka have cautioned the UPND Leader, Mr. Hichilema over the offence of conspiracy to defraud.


It is alleged that in 2004, Mr. Hichilema who introduced himself as a community worker based in Lusaka, whilst acting together with other unknown persons, fraudulently purchased a farm in Kalomo district belonging to the late Samson Siatembo. Mr. Hichilema is accused of purporting to have received consent from the Administrator of the late Siatembo’s farm, but Ms. Mwaata says they have since found this was not the case.