Janet Rogan is the the disgraced UN resident coordinator in Zambia. She is shameless on the payroll of the Zambian regime:
I am sorry I was not able to meet with you last week, but I am pleased that you were able to meet with Graham.
We have been following developments in Zambia and the reports on the raid on the UPND leader and of his alleged detention, and would appreciate any update and analysis that you could contribute.
Valeria de Campos Mello
Senior Political Affairs Officer
Team Leader for Southern Africa and Indian Ocean
United Nations Department of political affairs, Africa 1 Division
1. Following earlier social media reporting, it has now been confirmed officially that UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema (HH) was arrested and charged with treason today (11th April, following a serious incident in Western Province on Saturday 8 April in which his motorcade impeded the passage of the presidential convoy. He is being held at the Zambia Police College in Lilayi (suburb of Lusaka, away from the centre). Treason is a non-bailable offence. There are no confirmed reports on unrest. The police are on heightened alert but say they have not so far deployed any additional officers around the country.
We are recalling staff on routine missions in potentially vulnerable areas and advising those resident outside Lusaka to remain indoors and alert until the situation clears.
2. The arrest follows a serious incident on Saturday 9 April at the annual traditional ceremony (called Kuomboka) in Western Province (aka Barotseland). This ceremony is huge and represents the ritual move of the king (the Litunga) and his royal household from the flood plains to his winter palace. The ceremony has not taken place in the last three years because of poor rains, so this year’s event took on extra significance. In addition, Western Province is one of the three that voted large majority UPND during last year’s general elections. President Lungu accepted the Litunga’s invitation to attend, as did HH and his large retinue. By tradition, such occasions are not party political, party regalia is not worn and neutrality is maintained. By protocol, all invited guests must be seated in the arena and VVIP area before the President arrives. All VVIP were provided with the programme and order of precedence.
3. HH led a convoy of some 60 vehicles, passing all checkpoints as planned and on time until the last one. There, his convoy reportedly slowed down and refused police instructions to move ahead to clear the road (which was narrow, barely two lanes wide). This is being interpreted as an attempt to impede the arriving presidential convoy, particularly given the number of vehicles in HH’s convoy and the unruly behaviour of many supporters who were hanging from the outside of vehicles. The arriving presidential convoy reportedly faced two options: force HH’s convoy off the road or overtake it. They chose the latter option, although HH’s convoy apparently accelerated as soon as the presidential convoy came alongside. The vehicles in the two convoys were thus in arms-reach of each other.
Fortunately, no vehicle collided and there are no reports of any of the individuals hanging off HH’s vehicles being injured. Once the presidential convoy reached the VVIP area, it was sealed off, and the police and royal establishment officials refused to allow HH’s convoy to enter since it had arrived late after the president.
4. This behaviour of HH arises from his refusal to acknowledge Lungu as President and his insistence that his petition on the presidential election is still in court (it is not; what remains in the High Court is another case, on whether or not he was availed by the Constitutional Court the right to be heard). Print and social media comment on the balance regard HH’s convoy activity as extremely dangerous and disrespectful of the office of Head of State, regardless of any position on the individual holding office.
At the same time, it does appear as though the police handling, both in terms of controlling the approach road and in terms of presidential convoy security, was lacking. On the road itself, the police were unable to exercise control over HH’s convoy either to halt it or to speed it out of the way. And although the presidential convoy has escort vehicles (sweepers) and sirens, they were unable to clear a way through in the usual way because HH’s convoy simply ignored them. In addition, as seen in the video on social media, it even appears as though the nearside window of the president’s vehicle was open, leaving him entirely vulnerable during the overtaking maneuver
5. The police apparently stormed HH’s residence overnight last night, arresting him. He was initially held at Woodlands police station in central Lusaka (a residential area in Lusaka where police controversially fired teargas to disperse a riotous crowd of UPND supporters on one occasion when HH’s running mate was detained) but later transferred him to the police college in Lilayi, a suburb of Lusaka, which is easier for crowd control, where he was charged with treason, a non bailable offence. It is understood that he will appear in court tomorrow morning (12 April).
6. So far, there are no confirmed reports of any unrest (though there are social media reports of incidents in Choma (Southern Province) and Solwezi (North Western).
7. As a precaution, we are recalling UN staff on missions in potentially vulnerable areas and I have cancelled a planned 2-day mission of my own into Southern Province, which was due to start tomorrow morning. We are also advising project staff residing outside Lusaka to remain indoors and alert until the situation clears.
8. I will update again tomorrow, 12 April.
9. As anywhere, treason is a serious offence. In Zambia it caries a mandatory death penalty (though no Zambian President has signed a death warrant since 1997, and Lungu has on several occasions commuted all death sentences to life). It is non-bailable. Whatever the direction the court proceedings take, this could mean that HH is effectively removed from public visibility. It remains to be seen whether any member of his party try to take advantage of this; there have been internal rumblings since the elections.
UN resident Coordinator – Zambia