Zambian opposition politician arrested

2016-03-02 22:18


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Lusaka - Zambian police on Wednesday arrested a leading opposition politician on charges of training a private militia, and fired teargas to disperse his supporters as tensions increase ahead of August elections.

The arrest of Geoffrey Mwamba, vice president of the main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND), came after President Edgar Lungu accused the party of training up 250 young men.

UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema, who narrowly lost last year's election after the sudden death of president Michael Sata, is seen as the biggest challenger to Lungu in the August 11 vote.

Mwamba "has been officially charged and arrested for the offence of unlawful training," police spokesperson Charity Chanda told journalists.

He was granted bail and will appear in court on March 10.

Police last Saturday rounded up 21 youths at a gym owned by Mwamba, who was defence minister under Sata.

Use legal means

Home Affairs Minister Davis Mwila told parliament on Wednesday that police found a pistol, ammunition and machetes when they raided the gym.

If convicted, Mwamba could face at least seven years in jail.

Hichilema denied that his party was setting up a militia force and vowed to oust Lungu in the election.

"This will not derail me and my team," he told AFP. "We are determined to get to power using legal means."

Hichilema came second with 46.7% of the votes cast in the 2015 election, against Lungu who won power with 48.3%.

Zambia's copper-dependent economy has been badly hit by the global commodity price slump, with inflation soaring to more than 20%.

Read more on:    zambia  |  southern africa

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