Opposition wants Zambia frozen out of Commonwealth
Zambian opposition leaders called on Tuesday for a suspension of their country from the Commonwealth, accusing President Michael Sata of stifling democracy.
The leaders of several opposition parties and civil society groups gathered in Johannesburg to make the call, claiming it was now impossible for them to operate normally in Zambia.
They called “for the provisional suspension of Zambia from the Commonwealth pending investigation,” into rights abuses.
Several of those present, including Nevers Mumba and Hakainde Hichilema, have recently been arrested and granted bail on graft and other charges.
“The very fact that we were not able to hold this event in Lusaka gives you an indication of the levels of intolerance in Zambia,” said Sakwiba Sikota, leader of the United Liberal Party.
Nigeria, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Fiji have previously been frozen out of the 54-nation bloc.
After Sata’s election in September 2011, Zambia won praise for the peaceful transition of power.
But opposition leaders have since accused Sata’s government of waging an anti-democratic crackdown on them.
Opposition parties are frequently denied permission to hold rallies.
The opposition leaders also vowed to also take their case to the African Union and the South African Development Community.
“The country is under assault, our democracy is under assault,” Mumba said, adding that the opposition leaders wanted to give the international community an “early warning.”
“The signs on the ground are very similar to what happened in Uganda with Idi Amin in terms of how the president and government is managing the opposition,” he said.