ZAMBIA: Civil Society Opposes President’s Declaration of State of Emergency

LUSAKA JULY 7, 2017 (CISA) – Civil society groups and opposition parties in Zambia are against President Edgar Lungu’s decision to declare a state of emergency in response to the recent market fires suspected to have been deliberately sparked by arsonists.

According to the group, Civil Society Constitutional Agenda, the decision of the president is, “Totally misplaced and a knee jerk reaction to an incident that has not even been investigated.”

The chairperson of the group John Mambo said in a statement that arson is not a good reason to declare a state of emergency and the police are not adequately prepared to handle emergency situations.

“We would like to further remind the President that suspending any of our fundamental freedoms is essentially suspending our dignity and humanity,” the statement added.

In a national address on July 5, President Lungu invoked a constitutional clause which when approved by parliament, will render the country in a state of emergency.

“This is not an easy decision to make, but in order to preserve peace, tranquillity, safety of our citizens and national security, we had no choice but to take this decision given the events that have occurred in the recent past,” he said.

“We have repeatedly advised our nationals to desist from any irresponsible behavior and criminality but it would appear that this has fallen on deaf ears. Therefore, practical measures as outlined tonight have had to be invoked,” added the president.

“This power (state of emergency) I have invoked is only for seven days,” said president adding. “Parliament will within the next seven days determine whether it will be there for one week, one month, three months or six months,” he said.

Under state of emergency laws in Zambia, police can prohibit public meetings, close roads, impose curfews and restrict movements.

Unknown people destroyed electricity pylons on a high-voltage line a week ago, leading to a power blackout in some mining areas. Fires have been started in courtrooms and a building belonging to the ministry of education.

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