Zambian opposition leader arrested, accused of defaming president

Zambian president Edgar Lungu. (AFP)
Zambian president Edgar Lungu. (AFP)

Police in Zambia have arrested the leader of a small opposition party on charges of defaming President Edgar Lungu after the release of a video in which he allegedly inferred that the head of state was a dog.

Addressing journalists as he was led by officers on Wednesday, Chishimba Kambwili, leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), said his comments were misunderstood.

In the video that went viral on social media, Kambwili had said "some dogs from Chawama do not get tired of travelling".

Chawama is a township in the capital, Lusaka, where Lungu  previously lived and served as member of parliament. In recent times, Lungu has been travelling abroad including to India last week, and to Tokyo where Japan is hosting development talks with African leaders this week.

"The allegation is that he made references to dogs from Chawama" in the video, his lawyer Christopher Mundia told Reuters news agency.

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"The police have drawn inference that he was referring to the head of state as a dog from Chawama and that is why they have decided to charge him with defamation of the president," he added.

The leader was interrogated for nearly two hours before being taken into custody at a police station in the capital, Lusaka, according to AFP news agency.

"These people are scared of me. I have been arrested nine times in two years," he told reporters as he went into questioning.

Kambwili is expected to appear in court on Thursday. If convicted, the former lawmaker of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), faces three years in prison.

Police released a statement saying Kambwili had been detained, but did not go into further details. 

Kambwili and other opposition politicians have accused Lungu of cracking down on dissent - a charge the government denies.

The arrest came two days after the state Registrar of Societies cancelled the registration of Kambwili's NDC, saying its constitution was flawed and effectively shutting it down.

Kambwili has said he will challenge the decision in court.

The NDC took its first seat in parliamentary elections in April in the government's copper-producing heartland. 

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