28 January 2013

Zambia: Confusion Rocks UPND Rally

CONFUSION characterised the United Party for National Development (UPND) public rally in Lusaka yesterday as police apprehended more than 10 unruly youths for attempting to disrupt the gathering.

The unruly youths who assembled at Kabwata Basic School grounds two hours before the rally started chasing away people from the venue.

UPND Mazabuka Central Member of Parliament (MP) Garry Nkombo said the unruly youths were from the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) and complained that police were not doing enough to protect the opposition.

But PF spokesperson Chanda Mfula said it was not fair to conclude that cadres from the ruling party had attempted to disrupt the rally.

"We have no report that any of our cadres has been apprehended. It is mere speculation. UPND had their rally and we did not have any intention to prevent them," Mr Mfula said when contacted for a comment last evening.

The situation returned to normal when close to 100 anti-riot police officers arrived at the scene and apprehended several youths ahead of the address by party leader Hakainde Hichilema.

The police officers bundled the youth into waiting vans and transported them to Kabwata Police Station.

Inspector General of Police Stella Libongani briefly visited the scene and held talks with Mr Nkombo who complained of alleged incompetence by police.

But Ms Libongani assured the opposition MP that more officers would be deployed to provide adequate security.

Casualties were minimal during the fracas except for a ZNBC news crew that was attacked by the uncompromising youth who also threatened to manhandle a Times news team.

Lusaka Province police chief Joyce Kasosa said she was still awaiting a full report on the incident.

"I haven't yet received a full report, I am still waiting, so I can't give details right now of how many have been arrested," Ms Kasosa said.

On Saturday Home Affairs Minister, Edgar Lungu announced that the UPND could hold the rally amid security concerns.

During the rally which was not well attended, Mr Hichilema accused the Government of failing to implement campaign promises made during the run-up to the 2011 general elections.

Mr Hichilema said the rally was meant to remind the Zambians of the promises the PF made.

"The PF Government did not want us to hold this rally because we want to remind Zambians of the promises that they were given before elections," Mr Hichilema said.

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