Zambia has deployed the military to suppress escalating electoral violence ahead of the August 12, general elections.
President Edgar Lungu, who is contesting for a second term in the polls, says the military has been deployed to some areas in Lusaka, the Zambian capital, and would be sent to other areas in the country “if the situation demands …”.
“In order to curb the political violence we have witnessed in the past two days, I have allowed the Zambia Army, Zambia Air Force and Zambia National Service to help the Zambia police in dealing with the security situation,” Lungu said.
In Lusaka and other provinces, violence has been reported between supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) and opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) who attacked each other with machetes, axes, slashers and other weapons.
Two PF supporters were hacked to death with machetes on Friday by assailants suspected to be UPND members. Four people have been arrested in connection with the killings.
The Electoral Commission of Zambia had banned rallies because of the Coronavirus pandemic but clashes between opposing political parties continued and have overwhelmed the police.
On July 23, UPND supporters were alleged to have brutalised and injured Victor Mwila, a reporter with the state-owned Zambia News and Information Services, at Ikelenge district, northwest Zambia.
Lungu while deploying the military noted that “maintaining law and order is a daily chore of the police but sometimes they need help from other security wings.”
He added that the military would also ensure that the work of the Electoral Commission, which would conduct the polls, was not interfered with.
The UPND, whose leader – Hakainde Hichilema – is Lungu’s main challenger in the election, said it was studying Lungu’s statement.
Since Lungu succeeded Michael Sata after his death in 2014, dissent has been increasingly suppressed in the country, Amnesty International said in a report.
Lungu, 64, is running for a second term in the August 12 elections as the copper-rich country struggles with its economic woes. His main rival Hichilema, who has unsuccessfully contested for the presidency five times, has also been detained on several occasions since he began competing for the top job.