International academics reject sedition charge against Zambia’s Dr Sishuwa

WE, the undersigned, as prominent academics in Zambia, Africa and the wider world, are deeply alarmed at credible reports that the University of Zambia (UNZA) historian, Dr Sishuwa Sishuwa, is to be charged with sedition, as the result of an opinion piece he published in the Mail & Guardian, on 22 March 2021.

As historians and social scientists, who have studied and published in and about Zambia for many decades, we are extremely concerned that the threat of sedition charges is being used to silence the legitimate expression of belief by one of the country’s most prominent early career scholars.

Dr Sishuwa, who has published outstanding and prize-winning research articles in the world’s most prominent African studies journals, is drawing on his research expertise to bring to public attention his concerns about the current direction of Zambian political life.

Far from inciting popular rebellion (as the term “sedition” implies), he seeks to address the underlying causes of societal tension as a way to reduce it. We believe it is both his right and his patriotic duty to bring such concerns into the public eye. Article 20 of the Constitution of Zambia guarantees Dr Sishuwa and all other Zambians freedom of expression, that is to say freedom to hold opinions, receive ideas and impart or communicate ideas and information without interference.

As citizens and longstanding friends of Zambia, who have documented the country’s prominent historical role in the political liberation of Southern Africa, and its pioneering role in constitutional democratisation, we are worried about the proposed use of an authoritarian tool such as the charge of sedition, and call for any consideration of such charges to be immediately and permanently dropped.

We are further alarmed by the University of Zambia statement, dated 27 April 2021, disassociating the university from its employee, Dr Sishuwa. This misleading statement suggests Dr Sishuwa is not currently employed by the university, when he is, as is normal for academic researchers, on temporary research leave from it. Indeed, as recently as December last year, UNZA publicly celebrated the achievements of Dr Sishuwa.

We have all worked at or with colleagues from UNZA, long a prominent university that has, since independence, been a centre of intellectual freedom, often in difficult circumstances. We wholly reject the allegation that Dr Sishuwa is pursuing a “personal agenda” and call on the university to guarantee Dr Sishuwa’s continued employment and his right to academic freedom.


1. Professor Rita Abrahamsen, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa
2. Dr Michael Aeby, Research Associate, IDCCPA University of Cape Town & University of Edinburgh
3. Professor David M. Anderson, Professor of African History, University of Warwick
4. Professor Kate Baldwin, Associate Professor of Political Science, Yale University 5. Professor Robert Bates, Eaton Professor Emeritus of the Science of Government, Harvard University
6. Dr Nicole Beardsworth, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Pretoria 7. Dr Eloïse Bertrand, Research Fellow, University of Portsmouth
8. Professor Catherine Boone, Department of International Development, London School of Economics and Political Science
9. Professor Michael Bratton, Emeritus Professor of Government, Michigan State University
10. Caesar Cheelo, Research Economist – Trade and Customs Division, COMESA Secretariat
11. Professor Nic Cheeseman, Professor of Democracy, University of Birmingham 12. Dr Grieve Chelwa, Postdoctoral Fellow, The New School
13. Professor Simukai Chigudu, Associate Professor of African Politics, University of Oxford
14. Dr Isaac Chinyoka, Centre for Social Science Research, University of Cape Town 15. Dr Michaela Collord, Junior Research Fellow, New College, University of Oxford 16. Dr. Leila Demarest, Assistant Professor of African Politics, Institute of Political Science, Leiden University
17. Dr Kim Yi Dionne, Associate Professor of Political Science, UC Riverside 18. Professor Gregor Dobler, Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, Albert Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
19. Dr Boniface Dulani, Senior Lecturer in Political Science, University of Malawi 20. Dr Jonathan Fisher, Reader in African Politics, University of Birmingham 21. Dr Alastair Fraser, Department of Politics and International Studies, SOAS, University of London
22. Dr Elena Gadjanova, Lecturer in Politics, University of Exeter
23. Professor Antoinette Handley, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto 24. Dr Anne Heffernan, Assistant Professor in Southern African History, Durham University
25. Professor Samuel Hickey, Professor of Politics and Development, University of Manchester
26. Professor Alan Hirsch, Emeritus Professor of Public Governance, University of Cape Town
27. Dr Dan Hodgkinson, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, University of Oxford 28. Dr Chris Huggins, Assistant Professor, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa
29. Professor Faizel Ismail, Professor of Public Governance, University of Cape Town 30. Zenobia Ismail, Research Fellow, Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham
31. Professor Hambaba Jimaima, Department of Literature and Languages, University of Zambia
32. Dr Walima Kalusa, Senior Lecturer in African History, University of eSwatini, and former Head of the Department of History, University of Zambia
33. Professor Chammah J. Kaunda, Assistant Professor of World Christianity and Mission Studies, Yonsei University
34. Kalaluka Kapungu, Citizen of Zambia
35. Stephen Kamugasa, Independent Researcher
36. Rita Kesselring, Senior Lecturer at the Institute for Social Anthropology, University of Basel
37. Dr. Aikande C. Kwayu, Honorary Research Fellow, Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
38. Stephanie Lämmert, Researcher, Max Planck Institute for Human Development 39. Professor Miles Larmer, Professor of African History, University of Oxford 40. Dr Terrence Lyons, Associate Professor, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, George Mason University
41. Professor Adrienne LeBas, Associate Professor of Government, American University 42. Professor Gabrielle Lynch, Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick. 43. Dr Ainara Mancebo, Research Scholar, Ronin Institute
44. Hugh Macmillan, Research Fellow, University of Oxford
45. Kuukuwa Manful, PhD Researcher, SOAS, University of London 46. Professor Robert Mattes, Professor of Political Science, University of Strathclyde 47. Kelvin Mmabwe, University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers’ Union 48. Robert Molteno, formerly Lecturer in Political Science and Public Administration, University of Zambia, 1968-1976
49. Dr Duncan Money, Researcher, African Studies Centre, University of Leiden 50. Jason Mosley, Research Associate, African Studies Centre, Oxford University 51. Steriah Mudenda, School of Education, The University of Zambia 52. Hassan Mudane, Lecturer, Department of Political Science, City University of Mogadishu.
53. Dr Patience Mususa, Senior Researcher, Nordic Africa Institute 54. Victor Mutelelekesha, Contemporary Artist, Founder of The Lusaka Contemporary Art Centre
55. Youngson Ndawana, Lecturer in Media Studies, University of Zambia 56. Professor Manenga Ndulo, Professor of Economics, University of Zambia 57. Professor Henning Melber, Nordic Africa Institute; University of Pretoria; University of the Free State
58. Professor Muna Ndulo, Professor of Law, Cornell University
59. Dr Bruce Mutsvairo, Professor of Journalism, Auburn University 60. Nanjala Nyabola, Independent Researcher
61. Dr Robert Nyenhuis, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Cal Poly Pomona
62. Dr Ken O. Opalo, Assistant Professor, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
63. Dr Dan Paget, Lecturer in Politics, University of Aberdeen
64. Dr Michael Panzer, Adjunct Professor in History, Marist College 65. Dr Lazlo Passemiers, Senior Lecturer, University of the Free State, South Africa 66. Dr Justin Pearce, Research Fellow Global Soldiers, University of Sussex 67. Professor Didier Péclard, Associate Professor of Politics and African Studies, University of Geneva
68. Dr Iva Pesa, Assistant Professor Contemporary History, University of Groningen 69. Professor Anne Pitcher, Department of Political Science, University of Michigan 70. Dr Deborah Potts, Emeritus Reader in Human Geography, King’s College London
71. Professor Lise Rakner, Professor of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen 72. Professor Brian Raftopoulos, Research Fellow, University of the Free State 73. Dr Sara Rich Dorman, Senior Lecturer in African Politics, University of Edinburgh
74. Professor Oliver Saasa, Professor of International Economic Relations & Chancellor, Mulungushi University
75. Dr Edalina Rodrigues Sanches, Assistant Professor, ISCTE – University Institute of Lisbon (Portugal)
76. Professor Chris Saunders, Emeritus Professor of Historical Studies, University of Cape Town
77. Dr Laura E. Seay, Assistant Professor, Department of Government, Colby College 78. Professor Jeremy Seekings, Professor of Political Studies and Sociology, University of Cape Town
79. Dr Neo Simutanyi, retired Senior Lecturer in Political Science, University of Zambia and Executive Director, Centre for Policy Dialogue
80. Dr Lahra Smith, Associate Professor, African Studies Program & Department of Government, Georgetown University
81. Christian von Soest, Lead Research Fellow, Head of Peace and Security Research Program, German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA)
82. Dr Morris Szeftel, Senior Lecturer Emeritus, Political & International Studies, University of Leeds
83. Professor Blessing-Miles Tendi, Associate Professor in African Politics, University of Oxford
84. Dr Robin L. Turner, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science, Butler University
85. Dr. Bridget Bwalya Umar, Senior Lecturer, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Zambia
86. Professor Peter VonDoepp, Dept. of Political Science, University of Vermont 87. Professor Nicolas van de Walle, Professor of Government, Cornell University 88. Dr Michael Wahman, Assistant Professor, Michigan State University 89. Martin Waithaka, Independent

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