Zambian police investigate two deaths during opposition protest

ZAMBIAN police launched an investigation into the deaths of two people during a protest against the summoning of opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema for police questioning.

Hichilema, head of the United Party for National Development (UPND) party, was ordered to appear at police headquarters in the capital Lusaka for questioning on unspecified issues.

A large crowd of supporters, defying police orders, gathered to escort him to the police station and police fired teargas to disperse the gathering.

“In the process of dispersing the unruly crowd using tear smoke canisters, two people were reported to have been shot dead in unknown circumstances which we are yet to establish,” police Inspector General Kakoma Kanganja said in a statement.

“Investigations into the shooting have been instituted to establish the circumstances in which the two victims were shot.”

Hichilema’s lawyers and spokespeople did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment on the shooting and the reason for the police summons.

Zambian President Edgar Lungu was elected in 2016. His ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party has been accused of mismanaging the economy and of intimidating opponents and critics.

In 2017, Hichilema was arrested for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government but the charges against him were later dropped.

U.S.-based human rights monitor Freedom House has said “opposition parties face onerous legal and practical obstacles to fair competition” in Zambia.

Zambia’s next general election is due in August 2021. – Thomson Reuters Foundation.