PF must halt escalating political violence – Robert Amsterdam

The Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR) uniformly denounces the lethal violence which took place Thursday in Lusaka among cadres of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party, resulting in the death of at least one person and scores of injuries.

“Sadly, these repeated incidents of violence by PF cadres have been openly encouraged by the ruling party,” said Robert Amsterdam, International counsel to CDDR.  “The government’s refusal to denounce violence and failure to take any meaningful action to protect public safety represents a grave violation of Zambia’s obligations under international law.”

Eyewitness reports and sources indicate to CDDR that on 7 November 2013 two different groups of PF cadres clashed in Central Lusaka, one supporting Defence Minister Geofrey Bwalya Mwamba, and the other supporting Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba.

Using machetes, knives, axes, and other weapons, at least one person has been confirmed killed, while another three individuals are believed to have died in the fracas.  Dozens have suffered severe injuries.

In response, police have arrested 19 cadres, however CDDR is informed that the PF government is ordering that they be released without consequence following these killings.  So far, the leadership has denied responsibility for the actions of the ruling party cadres, while Vice President Guy Scott has dismissed the event as “a police matter.”

“We find it deeply disturbing that Zambia’s leadership is encouraging this bloodshed, but we cannot say we were not warned,” said Mr. Amsterdam.  “This is a party that speaks only through a vocabulary of violence, and has proven unable to maintain order.  The PF government has lost control of its membership, and at this juncture it is a matter for referral to the African Union.”

The CDDR notes that these most recent violent events are part of an established pattern of state-sponsored violence under the current government.

On September 4-5, a militia of PF cadres, allegedly organised under the direction of Defence Minister Geofrey Bwayla Mwamba and Deputy Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo, planned several premeditated violent attacks against supporters of the winning candidate in the Katete District.

The following day, they attacked Lucky Mulusa and Andrew Banda in Mkaika.  Earlier in the year, an organised militia violently laid siege to a church in Matero where civil society groups were debating the removal of subsidies, while numerous opposition leaders have faced repeated physical harassment.

The CDDR intends to include reports of yesterday’s developments in upcoming communications with international institutions and donor governments.