Zambia: Drop sedition charges against opposition leaders

Authorities must immediately drop charges of sedition against Zambia’s main opposition leader and his deputy, Amnesty International said ahead of their court appearance today.

The charges against Hakainde Hichilema and GeoffreyBwalya Mwamba are a ploy to intimidate and silence political opponents,
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa

Hakainde Hichilema, president of the United Party for National Development and his vice-president, Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, are due to appear at the Luanshya Magistrate court on charges of “seditious practices” and “unlawful assembly”.

“The charges against Hakainde Hichilema and GeoffreyBwalya Mwamba are a ploy to intimidate and silence political opponents,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.

“The authorities must drop the charges against them and stop misusing the criminal justice system to harass political opposition.”

Hakainde Hichilema and Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba were arrested in Luanshya on 5 October 2016 on their way to visit their supporters in prison.

The authorities must drop the charges against them and stop misusing the criminal justice system to harass political opposition.
Deprose Muchena

The “seditious practices” charge was brought against the pair after they publicly stated that they don’t recognise President Edgar Lungu as a legitimately elected leader of Zambia. They are challenging his election in court.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years. The “unlawful assembly “charge emanates from the meeting the two opposition leaders had with their supporters on 26 September in Chibombo district along their way to the Copperbelt Province.

After being charged, the pair were held overnight at Luanshya Police Station.

Hakainde Hichilema has alleged that the police denied them food, water, and bedding during their detention.

“The authorities must ensure prompt, impartial and effective investigations of the alleged ill treatment of Hakainde Hichilema and GeoffreyBwalya Mwamba during their detention. Anyone found to have ill-treated them must be held accountable for their actions."

 

Background

The Zambia Electoral Commission declared the Patriotic Front the winner of the election held on 11 August 2016. However, Hakainde Hichilema’s United Party for National Development has challenged the election results in the constitutional court.

The country has since been rocked by post-election violence.

A commission of inquiry has since been established to investigate the post-election violence.