LUSAKA, Zambia (AA ) – Zambia’s ruling party is infringing the constitutional rights of its citizens, according to experts speaking on Wednesday after two men were arrested for booing President Edgar Lungu.
Alex Ngoma, a political scientist at the University of Zambia, and Mweelwa Muleya, information chief at the country’s Human Rights Commission, accused the Patriotic Front of harassment following the men’s appearance in court.
“Everywhere in the world presidents get booed and people who boo them don’t get arrested,” Ngoma told Anadolu Agency.
“What is so special about the Zambian president that people who boo him have to get arrested? For me this is an act of harassment designed by the ruling party to stop critics from opposing President Lungu ahead of the forthcoming general elections.”
On Jan. 20, Allan Sichibeya, 32, and Reubin Namasiku, 27, were arrested and charged with conduct likely to breach the peace and provoking violence after they allegedly led a crowd in booing Lungu as he visited Choma, the provincial capital of Southern Province, a bastion of support for the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND).
Muleya said their arrests breached constitutional guarantees of free association and expression.
“In politics, people express themselves differently, including booing political opponents,” he said. “It so happened that President Lungu got booed at that particular time.
“This does not mean that the people that booed him deserve to be arrested and arraigned to a court of law for prosecution. This is wrong.”
In a statement, Southern Province Police Commissioner Godwin Phiri said an investigation was launched after crowds chanted “We want change” and flashed the symbol of the UPND as Lungu’s motorcade passed.
Last November, miners in Copperbelt Province booed and jeered Lungu during a visit.
Chief government spokesman Chishimba Kambwili accused the opposition of inciting people to “pick on” Lungu during his visits.
“The government is aware of the manoeuvre by some opposition personalities who have paid youths to mock the president whenever he is on his official duties,” he said. “We have, therefore, instructed the police to identify and bring to book such people, including those who have been paid to insult the president.”
Zambia faces a general and presidential election in August.
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