Zambian Opposition Parties Lobby for Suspension from the Commonwealth

President Sata as a victim of the Public Order Act when he was an opposition leader.
President Sata as a victim of the Public Order Act when he was an opposition leader himself. Picture courtesy of Zambian watchdog.

Zambia’s opposition parties have called upon the Commonwealth to suspend the country amid claims of a deteriorating political environment. They accuse Michael Sata’s Patriotic Front (PF) government of using the Public Order Act to severely curtail opposition party activities. Ironically, the Public Order Act was a piece of legislation that the Zambian President had to contend with as an opposition leader. However, since coming to power, he has stated that he has now “fallen in love” with the Act.

Two opposition leaders – the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD)’s Nevers Mumba and United Party for National Development (UPND)’s Hakainde Hichilema – are currently on trial for various political offences covered by Public Order Act. Mumba and Hichilema also attended the recent gathering of opposition leaders in South Africa – known collectively as the Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR) – that made the demand for Zambia’s suspension from the Commonwealth.

Zambian President Orders Killing of “Rebels” No One Can Find


President Michael Sata
President Michael Sata, Zambia’s Commander-in-Chief. Photo courtesy of Zambian Watchdog.

It remains difficult to confirm the existence of the Barotse Liberation Army, the supposed paramilitary wing of various groups calling for the secession of Zambia’s Western Province. However, if President Michael Sata’s order to the army to kill the rebel activists is anything to go by, the organization is nevertheless considered a serious threat to Zambia’s national security.

The November 30 order came after it was reported that the rebels were recruiting former soldiers and policemen to serve in the Barotse Liberation Army. Speaking at a Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional Defence Command Staff College graduation ceremony, Sata said:

In Lukulu (Western Province) people have formed a group called Barotse Liberation Army, they are recruiting people. As of today, I am aware that they have recruited 276 people. They are recruiting former army officers, police officers and former poachers…

Terrorism Global Voices

Zambia’s “Imaginary” Terror Plot

Defence Minister Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (in dark glasses) with President Sata (left) and other government officials.
Defence Minister Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (in dark glasses) with President Sata (left) and other government officials. Picture courtesy of Zambian Watchdog

Zambia recently woke up to a story in state-owned media that a group calling itself Tongas Under Oath had killed two people belonging to President Michael Sata’s ethnic group, and was now in the process of removing settlers from the ethnically Tonga Southern Province. However, the story did not wash with the citizens who simply viewed it as an attempt by the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) government to clamp down on the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND). Zambia’s third largest opposition party is led by Hakainde Hichilema, a Tonga who has been very critical of the Sata government. And as is often the case in Zambian politics, Hichilema is the latest in a line of fearless opposition leaders whose increasing popular support is likely to result in electoral success.

Prior to the release of the letter allegedly written by the Tongas Under Oath group, Hichilema was arrested and charged after he claimed that the PF government was planning to send youths to Sudan to train as militias. A few days later, the opposition’s headquarters in the capital, Lusaka, were searched by the police looking for seditious materials.