Opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) president Hakainde Hichilema says he has written to President Rupiah Banda demanding for the immediate and unconditional release of all the persons detained in connection with the Barotseland Fracas that took place recently
“Following the unfortunate loss of lives arising from the overall mishandling of matters relating to the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 by the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) Government, I have written a letter to the Republican President, Rupiah Bwezani Banda to demand the immediate and unconditional release of all those persons who are detained in connection with activities associated with this Agreement, explained Hichilema.
To be specific, this includes detainees charged with treason held in Lusaka, detainees charged with conduct likely to cause breach of peace held in Mumbwa and any others who may be detained elsewhere.
Hichilema told president Banda that the tension currently prevailing in the country, arising from the inadequacy and absence of diligence by the MMD Government in handling these matters could have been avoided and must be brought to an immediate end.
He said all peace loving Zambians must accept and recognize that the Barotseland Agreement is an International Treaty which is valid, legally binding and can never be wished away. He said the agreement brought about the birth of a country today known as Zambia; and that the provisions of the Agreement in themselves confirm the unitary nature of our country.
He said UPND wishes to remind the Government that an International Agreement cannot be abrogated in an arbitrary manner and applying a dictatorial approach of “Mighty is Right” should not be encouraged.
According to Hicilelma, the United Nations (UN) provisions on such matters are clear and straight forward.
” We believe that detaining and charging citizens with treason or other offences for discussing the Barotseland Agreement is a violation of human rights. For any government that believes in the rule of law, it is apt and logical to respect human and natural rights as well as freedoms of individuals and groups even when their views may be different from those of authority holders.’
Hichilema also said there are indications that the official death toll of two people in the Mongu riots is higher. He said there are counter claims that more people died while some are said to be missing.
“There is therefore need for Government to ascertain the truth on this matter by verifying with families who are not able to account for their members. Any disparities should be reported to appointed independent persons so that the truth is made known in addition to allowing for corrective measures to be taken for the matter to be put to rest in a decent manner.
‘In a civilized society like ours, it is essential that the MMD Government’s brutality and insensitivity should be replaced with transparent, comprehensive and well meaning dialogue with the affected people and various leaders of Western Province and other stakeholders, in order to secure a lasting solution to this challenge. This approach will forestall more detentions and any further loss of lives.
‘UPND strongly believes that the Barotseland Agreement is a reasonable basis for delivering the long overdue devolution of powers to all the regions of Zambia. Such devolution of powers, supported by resources allocation from the Central Government, if implemented correctly should result in reasonableness and equity in the distribution of development to all (without exception) our country’s poor and deprived yet viable regions.
‘UPND condemns the use of live ammunition on demonstrators as demonstrations are an integral part of a democratic society. The Police should be instructed to exercise restraint when dealing with demonstrators in future.’