Following reports that the Zambian government of President Michael Sata intends to block an upcoming rally by a large coalition of opposition parties, the Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights has issued a statement declaring such a move as unlawful.
According to the statement, a combined opposition rally was being prepared for the Mtendere residential district of Lusaka in order to address the issues of the arrest of opposition leaders and the current spate of food shortages. The event is being backed by members from the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), United Party for National Development (UPND), Alliance for Development and Democracy (ADD), United Liberal Party (ULP), and the Zambia Direct Democracy Movement (ZDDM).
“There is absolutely no basis under the Zambian constitution or international law for the police to arbitrarily and preemptively ban peaceful political gatherings for no reason,” said Robert Amsterdam, counsel to the CDDR, according to the press statement. “The Patriotic Front administration is in violation of several international agreements that guarantee basic rights to its citizens, such as free and fair association and the right to public assembly.”
The CDDR statement argues that the denial of the permit to the opposition parties follows upon controversial statements by Minister of Justice Wynter Kabimba, who recently stated that Zambian people “want a one-party state,” and that the government would seek to “close down” certain Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
“The international community and donor institutions must remind the Zambian leadership of its international commitments, and ask them to instruct Inspector-General Libongani to reverse the order to ban the Mtendere rally,” said Amsterdam. “There is a clear pattern of abuse to these recent events in Zambia, as basic principles of democracy appear to be under attack.”