Mass arrests in Zambia over anti-foreigner riots
Zambian police have detained 262 people for allegedly attacking Rwandan nationals and looting their shops in the capital Lusaka. Two people died in the rioting. The riots started after rumours that Rwandans were behind recent ritual killings in the city.
Home Affairs Minister Davies Mwila told parliament the two fatalities had been identified as Zambians who died "in the confusion" as riots tore through the shantytowns. The victims were burned with firewood and vehicle tyres, according to police.
Charity Munganga Chanda, spokesperson for the Zambia Police Service, told that the 262 who had been apprehended would appear in court on 22nd April. The police wanted to set an example for looters "because it is an offence to break into someone's shop and steal," she said.
More than 60 shops were looted, the police said. The looters made off with food, drinks, refrigerators and other electrical appliances. On 19th April morning, an AFP reporter witnessed hundreds of Lusaka residents stoning shops and houses owned by foreign nationals.
Zambia, which has an estimated population of 16 million, has a tiny Rwandan migrant community of 6,500, most of whom came to the country after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Many are shopkeepers and are often better off than Zambians, which can be a source of friction.
Mwila blamed the riots on false allegations that a suspected ritual killer of foreign nationality had been released from police custody. Ritual killings in Zambia started in March. Several of the victims, mostly men, were found with body parts missing. The body parts are believed to have been taken for use in rituals aimed at obtaining wealth or power. Police confirmed that at least seven people had been ritually murdered and that about 11 suspects had been arrested in connection with the deaths. Chanda said they were still investigating the case.
Oppostion leader Hakainde Hichilema appealed for calm. The newly formed leftist Rainbow Party attributed the violence to poverty and discontent with President Edgar Lungu's government.