Stop use of live fire for crowd coontrol- CDDR

 Following a deadly shooting of   protesters by officers of the Zambia National Service (ZNS) in the Kampasa area near Lusaka’s main airport, the Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR) is calling for a full investigation and an immediate cessation of the use of live rounds for the purposes of crowd control by Zambia’s security  services.

 “We are deeply concerned by this tragic incident of soldiers firing live rounds at  unarmed protesters during a routine crowd control exercise, as it raises fears over how security operations will be handled during future  political rallies  and elections,” said Robert Amsterdam, international counsel to the CDDR.  “All Zambians have a constitutional right to freedom of speech and assembly, and such a willful        disregard for human lives by the PF government cannot be allowed to continue.”

 Although the details are still unclear, the squatting protesters in Kampasa had clashed with the authorities on previous occasions, claiming that they had been unlawfully dispossessed of their homes in a land transaction related to the Meanwood Ndeke Housing Development by a senior member of government, Minister of Tourism Sylvia Masebo, among other investors close to State House.  The shooting occurred when ZNS soldiers arrived to demolish houses built on the disputed land.

 The shooting in Kampasa resulted in the unnecessary deaths of two unarmed protesters, Clement Muloongo and Pumulo Lungwangwa, and several injuries.  According to a report published in the  Zambia Daily Mail, one protester had been beaten with short batons before being        shot in the head at close range. The other was shot as he tried to rescue his father.

 “According to eyewitnesses, one of the men raised his hands and begged the officers armed with AK 47 rifles to spare his life but they ignored him and opened fire on him,” reads the Daily Mail coverage of the incident.  “The second victim was shot when he tried to rescue his father, who was in the house which was being demolished, while the survivor was shot in the buttocks as he hung around after being evicted from his house.”

 The killings of the two protesters in Kampasa are preceded by a number of other violent episodes under the ruling Patriotic Front party.

 On June 12, Zambian security officials similarly fired live rounds into  a crowd of people attempting to purchase football tickets for a World Cup  qualifier,  resulting in one young woman losing a kidney from a bullet that tore through her midsection.  In Kitwe, rioting football fans were quelled by soldiers firing live rounds into the air. 

 Other violent attacks from the ruling party have targeted opposition figures.  Just days earlier, cadres from the  Patriotic Front party attacked Father Frank Bwalya, a Catholic        priest who        recently turned against the ruling party, and interrupted his        interview with        Flava FM.  And on May        31, an        organized militia attacked and violently beat civil society        activists who had        met in a church to discuss the government’s sudden removal of        fuel and maize        subsidies, among other violent incidences involving the ruling        party.  Other opposition        leaders such as        Hakainde Hichilema and Nevers Mumba have also both been        subjected to violent        attacks over the past year.

 “There is,        in Zambia today, an environment of impunity, where judges can be        fired for        ruling against friends of the PF regime, where the police refuse        to arrest        perpetrators of violence so long as it is in the interest of the        state, and        where moral bankruptcy and corruption reign supreme,” said        Amsterdam.  “Make no        mistake, these kinds of        ‘accidental’ shootings are a test of resolve, a test to see what        they can get        away with.  The CDDR        intends to        work closely with other members of civil society who reject this        state-sponsored violence to prepare a report before relevant        bodies detailing        these events.”