Zambia police slammed for killing 4 opposition backers

United Party for National Development leader accuses police of bias, while human rights group slams it for use of force

09.07.2016 - Update : 11.07.2016
Zambia police slammed for killing 4 opposition backers File photo


By Francis Maingaila

LUSAKA, Zambia 

Human rights campaigners in Zambia on Saturday slammed security personnel for their use of excessive force at a rally Friday that left four opposition party supporters dead.

The slain supporters belonged to the United Party for National Development, also known as the UPND, who were killed when police used force to disperse a rally.

Zambia’s Human Rights Commission Chairwoman Florence Chibesha said in a statement that the country was not under a state of emergency or at war that could have justified the police’s harsh measures against its own citizens.

“As a result of excessive force, lives were lost and several others sustained serious injuries,” Chibesha said.

Local police chief Kakoma Kanganja on Friday night defended his force, claiming police were “forced to use maximum force” when they met violent resistance from opposition party supporters, some of whom were allegedly armed with sticks, stones, machetes and catapults.

“As police we had no option but to use force. We regretted the life which was lost in the process,” Kanganja said.

According to the official, 22 people had also been arrested.

Meanwhile, UPND Secretary-General Steven Katuka told journalists Saturday morning that the police action was politically motivated.

“It was not fair for police to have cancelled the rally an hour before it started and expect us to inform our supporters not to come to the rally within that very short time,” Katuka said.

He accused the police of being biased against the opposition party.

Katuka added his 44 people had been killed since an alleged campaign began against his party, with police yet to make any arrests related to the deaths.

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