Arrest me again, Hichilema tells Sata

2013-01-28 07:40
Zambian President Michael Sata. (File, AFP)

Zambian President Michael Sata. (File, AFP)

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Lusaka - Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema on Sunday challenged President Michael Sata to arrest him again as his party held the first opposition rally allowed by authorities since Sata's election in September 2011.

"I will not stop speaking for the Zambians, and if Sata wants let him arrest me even for 200 times. The man has failed and he wants to arrest opposition leaders. I will not stop speaking for the people of Zambia," Hichilema told thousands of supporters of his United Party for National Development (UPND), the country's second-largest opposition party.

Hichilema has been arrested in the past - most recently on 17 January - and is currently facing trial on charges of defaming the president and false publication.

The rally in the capital Lusaka is the first since Sata's Patriotic Front (PF) swept to victory in the 2011 elections, booting out the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD), which had been in power for 20 years.

After the election, Zambia won praise for the peaceful transition of power, but opposition leaders have since accused Sata's government of waging an anti-democratic crack-down on them.

The police have repeatedly denied opposition parties permission to hold rallies.

Hichilema accused Sata of dictatorship, and said Zambians were suffering as much under his rule as under that of his predecessor Rupiah Banda.

"We jumped from a pan to fire. What we want is real change, and change for the better. We know Sata is a violent man, but today, this is a great day for Zambia, we have broken his backbone of dictatorship. Other opposition parties should start holding rallies," he said.

Earlier, Sata supporters tried to disrupt the rally, but police managed to remove them from the grounds.

Zambia's police chief Stella Libongani suggested the opposition party cancel the rally, saying her officers were outnumbered by PF supporters.

"I think just postpone this meeting, there are more PF cadres than we are," she was heard telling a UPND lawmaker at the rally.

Read more on:    hakainde hichilema  |  michael sata  |  rupiah banda  |  zambia  |  southern africa

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