US government expresses concern over HH arrest

THE United States Embassy in Lusaka says it remains concerned over heightened political tension in Zambia, specifically with the April 10 police raid of opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema’s Lusaka residence and his subsequent arrest for treason.

Meanwhile, UPND vice-president Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba says the PF government wants to declare a state of emergency in Zambia.

And the UPND says police have denied Hakainde Hichilema’s lawyers access to the opposition leader, which is a basic human and constitutional right.

The US embassy, through its public affairs section, stated that recent events in Zambia underscored the need for peaceful dialogue between the opposition and the PF on matters of national concern.

“The U.S. government urges all actors to exercise restraint in addressing differences, to respect the rule of law and electoral proceedings, and to follow the due process Zambians expect from a country with a reputation for political pluralism and peaceful conflict resolution,” read the brief statement yesterday.

And briefing journalists at the party secretariat in Lusaka yesterday, GBM called for calm in the party despite Hichilema remaining incarcerated.

He also explained that the Mongu-Limulunga road, which PF sympathisers claim was blocked by Hichilema’s convoy, was open for ordinary traffic flow.

“They will not take our president to court today (Thursday); they will take him on Tuesday. But all I can say is that let’s remain calm. What I’m saying is that let’s not fall in their trap. [Do] you know what they want to do? They want to declare a state of emergency, you get my point? So, let’s remain calm; we know what we are doing,” GBM, a former defence minister in the PF government of Michael Sata, said.

“We shall not allow our president to be incarcerated and we have constituted a team of 20 lawyers who will be representing our president. As far as we are concerned as UPND, this [Hichilema’s arrest] has got nothing to do with treason but politically motivated charge. We therefore demand for his immediate and unconditional release. We are concerned over HH’s health and we demand that he is given medical care to remove the suspicion of poisoning by the police. There is no way a Head of State can open a window to his vehicle. It can’t be! I have been driven with Heads of State…So, the security who were there must be fired immediately for allowing the President to be moving [in a vehicle] with an open window. That’s a serious security breach. The Mongu-Limulunga road on that day was open to traffic [flow] and at no time did presidential sweepers appear to clear the road for the impending presidential motorcade. I was there in Mongu and I saw that there was nothing wrong that Hakainde Hichilema did.”
GBM, who charged that the police raid on Hichilema’s residence on Monday night amounted to aggravated robbery, added that the much talked about Mongu motorcade was “a smokescreen designed to cover for Edgar’s embarrassment at the [Kuomboka] ceremony where HH stole the limelight”.

“That is what angered Edgar! What happened in Limulunga, to be honest with you, embarrassed and humiliated Edgar. The people of Western Province, I salute you because you showed that the president you voted for is Hakainde Hichilema and you decided to stand by him,” GBM said at a briefing attended by party national chairman Mutale Nalumango, secretary general Steven Katuka, among other senior party officials.

He further reiterated that the PF government’s scheme was to create a one-party state.

“It’s clear to all that the strategy of the Patriotic Front is to create a one-party state by arresting opposition leaders on trumped-up charges like what has happened now. They also want to shut the independent media and they have already succeeded with The Post. But knowing The Post, it shall resurrect one day!” said GBM.

And Mazabuka Central UPND member of parliament Garry Nkombo said it was utter absurdity for the Daily Nation newspaper to insinuate that there is a leadership void in the UPND.

“Only foolish people can sit to discuss a leadership when there is no vacuum. You can keep him (Hichilema) for as long as you want but you should know that there is no leadership vacuum. UPND has got a structure, which is not doubtful. Seated right next to me here is the vice-president (GBM) who, for purposes and intent, while you have kept him there, he (GBM) is the flagship master,” said Nkombo.

“To insinuate that people are clamouring for a leadership position which is not vacant is utter stupidity and absurdity!”

And in a statement, UPND spokesperson Charles Kakoma stated that the Zambia police behavior was very strange.

He also informed the nation that the police earlier yesterday denied UPND members of parliament access to see their leader unless they got permission from the Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja.

“When HH’s lawyers went to see him earlier in the day, they were told they could only see him during the visiting hours. But when the lawyers went during the visiting hours as advised, they were again told they were not allowed to see their client Mr Hichilema,” Kakoma stated.

“We are now wondering what the PF leadership, through the Zambia Police, are trying to hide by not allowing Mr Hichilema to see his lawyers, elected UPND MPs and his close associates including family members and friends.
The law is very clear that lawyers should have full access to their clients as part of the judicial processes.”

Kakoma stated that even the worst condemned prisoners in Zambia were allowed to meet and confer with their lawyers and close associates such as family members.

Masked police officers on Monday night raided Hichilema’s New Kasama house to arrest him for allegedly endangering President Lungu’s life in Mongu.

The police left a trail of destruction and ransacked the house, stole money and battered Hichilema’s workers.
Tension has heightened following Hichilema’s arrest and treason charge.

The opposition leader is still incarcerated at Lilayi Police training college.

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