Two Shot Dead as Zambia Police Break Up Opposition Gathering

Two people died of gunshot wounds after Zambian police were deployed to disperse a crowd that gathered to show their support for the main opposition leader, Hakainde Hichilema, who had presented himself for questioning.

A state prosecutor and another person were hit by stray bullets fired by the police during chaos that ensued in the capital, Lusaka, privately owned Hot FM radio reported. Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja confirmed the deaths, but said they occurred in “unknown circumstances” while officers tried to break up the gathering.

Hichilema, president of the United Party for National Development, faced police interrogation related to the purchase of a farm about 15 years ago. The opposition leader denied wrongdoing, and the questioning is “an attack on democracy,” his spokesman, Anthony Bwalya, said by phone.

Political tensions are rising in Zambia ahead of elections set for August, as the country became the first in Africa to default on debt payments during the pandemic and is seeking a loan from the International Monetary Fund. Hichilema was arrested and charged with treason in 2017, months after an election that Zambian President Edgar Lungu narrowly won. He spent four months in prison.

Police warned Hichilema over allegations of conspiracy to defraud in buying the farm, a spokeswoman said in a statement. In Zambia, that’s a police procedure that often precedes an arrest.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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