By Francis Maingaila
Opposition parties in Zambia on Sunday instructed their supporters to boycott national independence celebrations scheduled for Monday.
The United Party for National Development (UPND) and the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) were angry at what they called an “artificial crisis” created by the ruling party.
Monday’s ceremony is also to be attended by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni at the personal invitation of Zambia’s leader, Edgar Lungu.
UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema told journalists in the capital Lusaka the boycott decision was to protest economic hardship and accused the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) of being involved in political intimidation and harassment.
"We would be failing in our duties as leaders if we allowed our people to celebrate independence tomorrow because there is nothing to celebrate … amidst [the] artificial crisis created by the ruling PF," Hichilema told a news conference attended by MMD leader Nevers Mumba.
Hichilema claimed after disputed Aug. 11 elections, Zambians had been arrested in their thousands and were languishing in prisons after being deprived of their freedom of expression and assembly.
The opposition says it will instead spend Monday visiting imprisoned Zambians and making donations to feed those they say are suffering hardship.
Secretary to the Cabinet Roland Msiska invited all political parties to attend the independence cerebration.
Every year, Zambia celebrates its independence day on Oct. 24 with deserving people receiving awards from the Zambian government for outstanding contribution to national achievements.