Looting in Zambia is fuelled by hunger, says Economic Intelligence

The Economic Intelligence Unit says this week’s Xenophobic attacks has highlighted how a challenging economic backdrop can fuel social tensions and weaken security.

In a statement, the EIU said although police presence in the affected neighbourhoods has been strengthened and there are few indications that the unrest will escalate further.

“We maintain our forecast that high inflation and a subdued economic outlook will heighten social tensions,” it said.

In 2015, Zambia, Chad and the Central Africa Republic were ranked as the three mosthungry countries on the Global Hunger Index (GHI).

‘A staggering 52 developing countries are suffering from serious or alarming levels of hunger. The Central African Republic suffers the greatest level of hunger — as defined by a number of metrics including child mortality — followed by Chad and Zambia,’ the Global Hunger Reports stated. See here

Now the Economic Intelligence Unit says although the riots may have been triggered by the suspected ritual killings, high youth unemployment and rapidly rising cost of living have increased frustration among locals, especially youths.

“Many foreign nationals run thriving small businesses in townships and the central business district of Lusaka, and as ordinary Zambians grapple with a tough economic climate, hostility towards foreigners appears to have increased,” it says.

The EIU said the disturbances, the first larger-scale xenophobic attacks in recent times have tarnished Zambia’s credentials as a safe haven for refugees fleeing conflict in others parts of Africa.

“Normally a peaceful city, the incidents in Lusaka baffled the government and many residents. The authorities arrested over 250 people and warned of stiff punishments in an attempt to curb the violence and the riots,” it said.

Riots broke out in several Lusaka townships on April 18th and 19th after locals targeted foreigners in attacks of retribution following the deaths of at least six people in suspected ritual murders.

At least two people have been killed in the revenge attacks.

The spontaneous riots appeared to be a reaction to the police’s reluctance to reveal the identities of 11 suspects arrested in relation to the murders of six locals, who had had organs and other body parts removed, within two months.

The rioters had demanded that the police reveal whether those arrested in connection with the suspected ritual murders were all foreigners.

The foreigners targeted in the recent attacks, mainly Rwandans who have lived in Zambia since escaping the 1994 Rwandan genocide, sought refuge at police stations as rioting and looting of dozens of shops owned by both foreigners and locals spread to several densely populated residential areas of the capital. Prior to the unrest, residents had burned a police post to protest the failure to arrest the murder suspects.


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