Zambian President Edgar Lungu Bows to Pressure, Calls for Investigation into the Shooting of Civilians

President Edgar Lungu has tasked Zambian Police with investigating circumstances under which two civilians were killed during a procession that was held in support of opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema.

The Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes –SACCORD welcomed the President’s call for an investigation. 

In a statement availed to Timescape Magazine, SACCORD Executive Director Boniface Cheembe indicates that the outcome of such an investigation will be crucial in providing credibility to the Zambian Police Service on the perception that there is an increase in brutality.

He also says an investigation would answer several questions.  

“It is hard to believe that anyone in the senior command of the police would have given a proclamation to use live bullets on unarmed citizens. If at all any senior officer did give such proclamation, who are they? If junior officers acted all by themselves, who are they and why did they do it? If there are no police officers who were involved, who did it?”

Mr. Cheembe adds that the country needs to learn lessons from this tragic incident so that it never happens again. He says that although conflict is considered a normal part of human interaction, it is not normal for civilized societies to resolve their disagreements through violence.  

“We would like to appeal for restraint and calm to avoid conflict escalation on the part of everyone so that peaceful democratic values can prevail,” he says.

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Speaking at a ceremony to install, Dr Joshua Banda, as presiding bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God, President Lungu also called upon the Church to help ease political tensions ahead of the August 2021 general elections.

“I call upon the Church to promote an environment that will foster a peaceful and democratic electoral environment, devoid of violence and other electoral malpractices that could threaten the peace and security of our nation. We should not allow elections to divide us,” he says.

On December 23, supporters of Mr. Hichilema believing their leader was being unfairly targeted in connection with the forthcoming general elections escorted him to the police, where he had been invited to answer to charges of alleged fraud.

The police attempted to disperse Mr. Hichilema’s supporters and during this process, two civilians, State Prosecutor Nsama Nsama Chipyoka and Joseph Kaunda of United Party for National Development (UPND), were killed.

President Lungu’s government and the police have since been condemned by different quarters, for compromising Zambia’s peace.    

The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) one of those to deliver strong condemnations says the government and police service are being reckless.

John Kunda the JCTR Faith and Justice Programme Officer says it is sad that guns of Zambia Police are becoming louder at a time when the rest of Africa is supposed to be working towards the silencing of the guns in accordance with the African Union’s 2020 theme. 

The primary duty of the police service is to defend and preserve life and property, thereby fostering peace and justice in our societies and communities. It is shameful that Zambians must die to the gun, especially manned by fellow Zambians,” he says. 

He adds that since Independence in 1964, Zambia has earned herself a description of being a peaceful country, guided by the national motto of “One Zambia, One Nation.”

But with the current happenings where Zambians are being shot, the peace is slowly fading.

“A nation that respects civil and political rights, must amicably work together to restore public order without losing any life,” he says.

JCTR observes that politicians at this moment need to exhibit the highest form of leadership that fosters political and social charity.

“Zambia cannot afford to have both an ailing economy and a violent political environment,” says Sauti.

The Centre has also called on law enforcement agencies especially the police service to see themselves as development actors, adding that they should play this role diligently and professionally to ensure that no life is unnecessarily lost due to indiscriminate shooting.

UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema who was speaking at the burial of Joseph Kaunda expressed similar sentiments telling police officers that his political party was working for the betterment of Zambia.

“Our message to professional police officers out there is that please do not kill your brothers and sisters. We are not fighting you, but for you together with generations to come so that all can have a better life,” he says.

The opposition leader noted that the blood of the people who had been killed would haunt the police.

“To the police, we can only say that the blood of all these people you have killed will forever haunt you and if you think your decisions please God as the giver of life, may you continue doing so,” he says.

Mr. Hichilema adds that the population would in 2021 democratically remove officials involved in the shooting of civilians.