Police deployed in prevention of violence at Zambian parliament building

Zambia Police in Riot gear
Zambia Police in Riot gear

Police in riot gear on Tuesday were deployed at the parliament building in Lusaka, the Zambian capital, in anticipation of violence between the ruling and opposition parties.

Tensions remain high between members of the governing Patriotic Front (PF) and students from the country’s highest learning institution, the University of Zambia, and the second main opposition party, the United Party for National Development (UPND), who have threatened to storm the building amid impasse over the constitution making process.

On Monday night, students from the university rioted at their campus over failure by the government to provide a roadmap on the constitution-making process, while youths from the government party threatened that they will march to the parliament building if opposition lawmakers continue disrupting proceedings.

On the other hand, youths from the country’s second largest opposition party said they will also march to parliament to protect their lawmakers from governing party youths.

Zambia Police Service Spokesperson Charity Munganga-Chanda said police have been deployed at the parliament building to maintain law and order in view of threats from various groupings.

“Those police officers are there because there have been groups that have been threatening to storm parliament. So we have dispatched our officers to stop such people,” she said in an interview with Xinhua.

Local media reported that over 300 armed policemen have surrounded the parliament building situated in Lusaka, as the impasse over the constitution-making process takes its toll though the police spokesperson refused to give the exact figure.

Last week, opposition lawmakers disrupted parliamentary proceedings for two days when they refused to discuss any other business until the government provides a roadmap on the constitution making process.

Opposition political parties and other interest groups have since called for street protests as a way to force the government to provide a roadmap on the constitution making process and release a draft constitution.

On Monday, Minister of Defense Edgar Lungu warned that the government will not sit idle and allow opposition parties and other interest groups to embark on street protests, adding that security agencies will not just watch and see the country become ungovernable.

There have been conflicting statements from government officials on the constitution making process with President Michael Sata declaring recently that the country does not need a new constitution and directed his officials to ignore people demanding a new constitution.

But Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba told parliament last week that the government was committed to providing a new constitution and that a draft constitution was ready for submission to Sata.

The current constitution making process began in November 2011 when Sata appointed a 20-member Technical Committee to draft the country’s new constitution.

In the run-up to the 2011 general elections, Sata had promised to enact a new constitution within 90 days of forming government.

Zambia has had four constitution review processes since independence from Britain in 1964.