Expatica news

Zambia’s ‘brutal crackdown’ on dissent threatens polls: Amnesty

Amnesty International warned Monday that repression under President Edgar Lungu has pushed Zambia to the edge of a “human rights crisis” ahead of presidential elections in August.

The government of the southern African nation has grown increasingly intolerant of dissent since Lungu replaced Michael Sata after his death in 2014, the watchdog said in a report.

Amnesty detailed several clampdowns on freedoms in recent years, including the jailing of opposition figures and the shutdown of independent media outlets.

Police violence has claimed at least five lives since Lungu was officially elected in 2016, it said.

“What we have seen in Zambia, especially in the past five years, is an increasingly brutal crackdown on human rights, characterised by brazen attacks on any form of dissent,” Amnesty’s regional director Deprose Muchena said in a statement.

“Speaking out against allegations of government corruption or abuse has become more dangerous,” he said, adding that protests were sometimes met with “lethal force” while government critics were “intimidated and harassed”.

The government did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.

Lungu, 64, is running for a second term in the August 12 election as the copper-rich country battles economic woes.

Last year Zambia became the first country to default on sovereign debt repayments during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lungu’s main rival Hakainde Hichilema has been detained several times since he started contesting the top job.

Amnesty recounted a deadly crackdown on a group of Hichilema supporters in December, gathered to show support after he was summoned for questioning in the capital Lusaka.

Police opened fire at the crowd, killing two people.

The commissioner who gave the order to shoot remains uncharged.

“Zambian authorities must commit to respecting… human rights before, during and after the August 12 election,” said Muchena, calling on the government to “end impunity” for past violations.