Now or never for the international community in Zambia

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Police fire tear gas at HH's house and block the main road and the gate to his house
Police fire tear gas at HH’s house and block the main road and the gate to his house


By GREG MILLS

The arrest and incarceration of a Zambian opposition leader could be a feint to test the response of the international community. If it’s limp, expect a wider and possibly even more violent crackdown.

Hakainde Hichilema, the leader of the Zambian opposition United Party for National Development (UPND), was arrested by police in his Lusaka home on Tuesday, 11 April.
It was a well organised night attack. Armed police and paramilitaries in plainclothes switched off the power to the house and blocked off access to the main roads before breaking down the entrance gates to the property.

Once inside the police liberally fired tear gas and, according to HH, as he is widely known, “tortured” his staff and ransacked the New Kasama property. In an affidavit of events, this involved stealing “colossal” amounts of cash, along with carpets, food and apparently just about anything else the invaders could get their hands on.

The businessman-turned-politician barricaded himself and his family in a safe-room in the house, sending out a torrent of urgent texts just after midnight highlighting his plight to friends and the media, before surrendering to police mid-morning once his lawyers had been permitted access.

Hichilema has now been charged with treason, and is being held at Lilayi Police Staff College outside the capital for questioning.

Since those accused with treason do not receive bail, he could be in for a long time. Access to the restricted Lilayi compound has so far been denied to his lawyers.

Equally, this event has been a long time coming. Most recently, Hichilema’s motorcade apparently failed to give way to that of President Edgar Lungu in Mongu three days earlier, spiking tensions. But relationships have been fraught since the national election in August 2016. Although Lungu was declared the official winner, the UPND claimed massive fraud before, during and after the voting – from the closing down of the main opposition newspaper to the failure to publish results at ballot stations and, most ominously, the slowing of the counting process, always a sign that the rig is in.

HH and his supporters have since as a result refused to acknowledge Lungu as president.

This may explain some of the venom in the raid. According to the opposition, the heavily armed police officers defecated in the house and peed on Hichilema’s bed, “trashing” the family home. The tear gas, which could reportedly be smelt from a long way away, caused harm to his wife and children, who are known to be asthmatic.
But there are deeper reasons behind the violence. The irregularities in the election were brushed over by an international community for whom the criteria of a free election are not the adherence to those democratic norms and standards they would like to see in their own countries.

This is not just a Zambian problem of course.

The regional environment, and especially the emergence of a patronage regime in the hegemon, South Africa, may also have encouraged Lungu and his Patriotic Front to follow a similar path. This includes ramping up pressure on foreign investors, involving cutting back on expat numbers and enforced local buying from PF cadres.
No doubt the international community would prefer to see Zambia’s political implosion as the result of both sides seeking conflict. That’s a cop-out. The violence is a result of a failure to ensure that decent standards were maintained in the election. Such a “shared responsibility” analysis fundamentally fails to acknowledge, too, the state’s virtual monopoly on the levers of violence.

To charge Hichilema for treason for interfering with a motorcade would seem to be self-defeating. Yet it could also be a feint to test the response of the international community. If it’s limp, expect a wider and possibly even more violent crackdown.

The target on 11 April was not just HH, but democracy in Zambia and by implication, the region. Resisting that requires international action and voice. The alternative is much worse, given the clear link between democracy and development, despite the oxymoronic notion of a “benign African dictator”. If the international community cares about this, and human rights and freedom of speech, it should apply pressure on Lungu to release HH immediately.

If it fails to do so, perhaps it is time for a frank conversation on whether diplomacy in Africa is fit for purpose.

The Author heads the Brenthurst Foundation and is the co-author of the forthcoming Making Africa Work: A Handbook for Economic Success (Tafelberg).

41 COMMENTS

    • +9
      -7
      vote

      I enjoy reading these kind of writing…
      I feel pit for Harry Kalaba to rebuild Zambian international reputation. Kalaba did a great job, until last palm Sunday, when Jesus started facing trouble.

    • +8
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      Don’t be amazed when you hear children barking in these police camps, some polizei might have mistaken dog food for biscuits.

    • +6
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      If you think that by concocting a story the way you have done will cause the international community to react, you are in for a rude shock.
      The international community is also aware of HH’s cantankerous behavior

      HH and GBV have brought this upon themselves by their lack of maturity in their politics.
      There’s no detention order signed by the President for an indefinite detention.

      HH has been arrested, charged with treason and he will have his day in court…
      Don’t provoke the situation and once you are made.to account, you cry to the international community for help.

    • +7
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      Kaiser Zulu has just written the last chapter in the book entitled the rise and fall of Lungu chakolwa.

      The mood in Zambia I hear is sombre. Even PF faggots in lusaka are drinking in sorrow and silently condemning Kaiser Zulu and Amos Chanda ‘s actions on behalf of Lungu.

      Its just a matter of time now before it erupts. And be warned when it erupts it wont select whether you are PF or UPND.

      The wind of change has started blowing in Zambia’s direction now and Lungu knows it.

      VIVA HH and UPND.

    • +8
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      I have began to understand that our fore fathers ‘s fight for independence was damn easy and exaggerated.

      I say so because they fought against regimes which were civilised and stuck to rule of law to the word. They respected the laws they enacted even if they were oppressive. The colonialist arrested fighters for breaking laws they enacted carefully to avoid to any breach of their constitution. Within the colonial constitution they respected political dissent and would only arrest freedom fighters and charge them with offences in line with POA or terrorism and not with treason. KK and his people were never threatened with a death penalty for political agitation.

      Look at the our own post independence regimes in Africa today. They are hypocrites. They preach virtue and practice…

    • +6
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      Look at the our own post independence regimes in Africa today. They are hypocrites. They preach virtue and practice vice. They can not even abide by the laws and the constitution which they claim to uphold.

      Lungu for example has breached nearly every constitution provision meant to safe guard peaceful existence of people with opposing political views. On elections, most election results were nullified or in the process of being nullified but no action and MPs still continue to draw salaries and holding ministerial posts. This to me a symbol of total disregard of the law and evidence that Zambian PF regime has abandoned the rule of law and adopted laws of the jungle.

      Now Lungu has just arrested HH on trumped up charges to point of even risking the peace of the nation.

      Remember…

    • +8
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      Remember revolutions were initiated by simple people who took drastic action to protest against the police brutality; remember the Arab spring?

      Amos released a statement blaming the thuggery exhibited at HH ‘s house on the police forgeting that a regime that loses control of police force risks being taken out by people revolt against police brutality.

      Never say never because because an angry man can use his body as a very dangerous weapon without any need for guns at all.

      VIVA HH AND UPND.

    • +6
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      There it reasonable to conclude that freedom fighters like HH who are against post independence dictatorship regimes like PF under Lungu have their work cut out because these regimes are 1000% evil compared to colonial regimes which respected the laws they enacted.

      African politics is brutal and requires an “eye for eye” approach in order for change to happen.

      VIVA HH and UPND.

    • +3
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      A very childish piece of work by a childish author.
      The author sounds like a teenage boy.

  1. +6
    -5
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    The world is watching. Just now I have been having a meeting with the American ambassador and today am meeting others from international community. The truth shall come out.

  2. vote

    The author is writing from a point of ignorance. From hearsay. Rubbish. The name suggests he is a descendant of the colonialists. I detest them whip carrying fools!…. Police defecating? Listen to that!!

  3. +2
    -4
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    NEZ,
    You are wasting your time.
    Being Africa, they will feel that it’s part of the culture.
    They will turn the proverbial, BLIND EYE!
    Had it been Jamaica, Paraguay or Malaysia, the same American ambassador would have led, from the front.

  4. +6
    -3
    vote

    Its not HH to suffer as it seems to be but the poor & young Zambian democracy. Shame on the police!!

  5. +2
    -6
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    That is it.

    HH must sacrifice his freedom if he cares for Zambian democracy as he claims.

    Pleas incarcerate him to light the tourch.

  6. +6
    -2
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    Even if they torture and brutalise HH their supporters in compounds are really suffering . They are struggling to put meals on the table. Shame on this government. Hunger does not choose even the hard core supporters of PF are equally suffering.

  7. +1
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    Americans when they is war they feel like someone has given them free dollars, when they hear about this they are going to be so happy. They like war than peace.hh go go go prison is for you no Reaves

  8. +3
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    You know it is an immature piece when things like this are found;
    According to the opposition, the heavily armed police officers defecated in the house and peed on Hichilema’s bed, “trashing” the family home.

    • +1
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      This the reason why they switched power off so that they are not captured on cctv cameras.

  9. +3
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    EXACTLY WHO IS THIS GUY
    THE SAME INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY HAVE FAILED TO REMOVE MUGABE FOR DONKEY YEARS- I BEGI WE ARE NOT UNDER COLONIAL RULE
    THE PINCH IS IN THE ONE WEARING THE SHOE- DOES THIS MAN KNOW FOR HOW LONG THIS PROVOCATION PROCESS HAS BEEN. HH AND GBM ARE JUST BITTER AND DISGRUNTLED LOSERS.
    PEOPLE LOSE AND MOVE ON.

  10. +3
    -2
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    GBM would rather be in prison right now so he uses that as excuse not to pay his debts as he is owing big time and broke.
    HH – you have such a beautiful house and land in an affluent area of Zambia what more do you want. You are a farmer do what you do best in peace and enjoy the rest of your life with your family.
    Is it by force that you stay in STATE HOUSE HABA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. +4
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    Mr. Greg Mills: It is clear that you’re the megaphone for HH, which is fine, any way. However, I would urge you to advise HH and his cohorts that it’s time to move on. They cant go on protesting their election loss forever and ad-nauseam. I strongly condemn the desecration of HH’s home by the cops, but I believe HH has now gone too far. He is the President of his Party, and not of the Country, and in another country, police would have opened fire on his motorcade after the way he behaved in Mongu. He is now behaving like a child….

    • +4
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      Let assume for a moment that HH is at fault, is it right in your moronic mind for police to go and vandalise his property, teargas his asthmatic wife and child? When have you ever head that HH has failed to appear at a police station after a summon? Why did 100 police officers go to his house in the middle of the night? Is this how a police function in a Christian country?

  12. +1
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    Greg Mills. A UPND sypathiser.wats yo real name dear.Lawlessness should not be torelated at all costs.people aspiring to lead us must show a lot of maturity for the majority to accept them.take a leaf from the political life of our departed president and grandpa Micheal Chilufya Sata

    • +1
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      vote

      AFRICAN WHY MUST MILLS BE A UPND SUPPORTER IN THE COMMON SENSE HE HAS WRITTEN THIS ARTICLE? SO IN SHORT YOU KNOW THAT ONLY UPND SUPPORTERS BLOG INTELLIGENTLY KA?

  13. +3
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    Well said Gregg Mills .The int’l community was silent when the previous PF regime used the courts to “fix” Rupiah Banda and deny him travel approved by the courts- and they never got sanctioned for that.Zambia is not a nation of the rule of law and if this gov’t is allowed to run thuggish rule then the abuses can only get worse.

  14. +3
    -1
    vote

    Greg is a friend of wanted fugitive and tax evader fred, the accounts clerk , night school lawyer and wannabe scribe who whilst in hiding he has been peddling and hawking what he thinks is news to bring government down. Fred is the same person who led the call on Obasanjo to comment forgetting the man making the comment once forced Yara on the people because he was the brother of his former prison mate. When reminded that the election had been flawed he replied ‘we will do better next time’. So for the next few weeks the tactics of fred writing editorials for the mast, ‘international’ comments on the situation in Zambia will spread. The point being to invite sanctions and flight freeze on the leaders. Lungu can diffuse all this by acknowledging he is serving his last term…

  15. +2
    -1
    vote

    This is a childish story to say the least. You are of course hoping that the international community will hear your side of the story and react. It is not possible.

  16. 0
    -1
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    This is the beginning of dictatorship and by the time you realise it will be too late. The police would have swept the road before eagle started off. God is watching and when he responds it will be catastrophy for mother zambia.

  17. vote

    I see no winners with the arrest of HH on trumped up Treason charges! We have all lost. Only time will show the extent of our GDP losses! Farewell Zambia!

  18. +2
    -1
    vote

    Nonsense. Where in your country of origin have you seen such Opposition behaviour? Openly insult in Head of State and Judiciary? Filing vexatious litigation of such insane, and inane nature. Opposition leaders Masquerading around like a clown lost his circus. Refusing to acknowledge Democratic outcome of elections like a little boy stumping his feet petulantly. The suggestion that Zambians will rise against the state in support to HH is misguided. People are fed up of poor ‘playmanship,’ (to coin a phrase), in Zambian politics. HH and UPND are the lowest common denominator in our political system.

  19. +1
    -1
    vote

    HH state house is not your potion,go to mukobeko maxmum prison thats where u belong dear

  20. vote

    Its very annoying to listen to young white boy writing an assignment about African politics full of plagiarism quotes. How many times are we going to listen to these assignments which end up with threats,the reaction of the international community. Who has s the international community anyway? International community are those who keep an eye on you whilst someone is provoking you. They don’t stop that person because their assignment is also to assess your anger management. They came in when you react to the provocation. They never condemn the person inciting you to a confrontation because they believe you must persevere or they withdraw the “economic” assistance rendered. Foolish enough you find enslaved Africans supporting this type of evil people. Are we in a laboratory as Africans…

  21. vote

    FEAR GOD AS YOU WRITE. GO TO CHURCH AND PRAY FOR PEACE. GOD IS BIGGER THAN YOUR ADMIRATION OF YOUR LEADERS. GOD LOVE YOU ALL

  22. vote

    This is a very well written article.

    The PF have made a terrible mistake by drawing the attention of the international community on the political economy in Zambia. The world now is watching. IF Mr. Lungu and the PF doesn’t know, – anything could happen to someone in detention, and let them pray HH will be safe – because if anything happened to him, that would be the end of Lungu and the PF.

    The negative publicitywhich the detention of HH is drawing, will make this country a political risk and therefore not good for investment. The Eurobond yields have already jumped to over 8.3 basis pints, making repayment of the bonds expensive. It will only get worse.

    The police were the ones at fault – by leading a sitting president along a route which was not pre-cleared according to…

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