More unrest in Zambia as votes counted

2011-09-21 21:44

Lusaka - Fresh violence broke out in Zambia on Wednesday when angry residents of a northwestern town threw stones at police and polling staff vehicles bringing ballot boxes to a counting centre.

The incident came a day after voting in national elections was marred by rioting in several neighbourhoods of the capital, Lusaka.

Residents in Solwezi, a small mining town in Zambia's North Western Province, accused election workers of trying to deliver unsealed ballot boxes to a counting centre.

"I can say that there was violence in Solwezi. Our officers are still on the ground to calm the situation," national police spokesperson Ndandula Siamana told AFP.

One witness, who said he supported the opposition Patriotic Front (PF), said the unrest arose from a dispute between election workers and residents who believed they were attempting to transport unsealed ballot boxes.

"We discovered that some boxes were not sealed and we could not allow this to go on, so we asked the ECZ (Electoral Commission of Zambia) for an explanation and they did not do that. Hence the riots," Moffart Jere told AFP.

He said police had fired tear gas to disperse the angry crowd.

Zambians on Tuesday chose their leaders for the next five years in presidential, parliamentary and local polls that pitted the PF's Michael Sata against incumbent President Rupiah Banda and the ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy, in power for the past 20 years.

Tuesday's rioting saw mainly young residents of poor neighbourhoods around Lusaka set fire to buses, smash election officers' vehicles and throw rocks at police, angered by delayed poll openings and allegations of vote fraud.

Police arrested five people and said calm had been restored by late afternoon.

Election officials and international monitors said the violence was isolated and had not compromised the overall vote.