Hundreds arrested after xenophobic attacks erupt in Lusaka
Xenophobic attacks in Zambia’s capital Lusaka continued on Tuesday with several foreign-owned shops broken into and looted by locals in the city’s townships.
The attacks that started on Monday in one of Lusaka’s densely populated townships – Zingalume – spread to Ngombe, Kanyama, Chawama, Kalikiliki, Chunga, George and Matero townships.
The riots were sparked by rumours that Rwandans were behind ritual killings. At least seven people have been murdered in recent weeks and their body parts removed, supposedly for muti or witchcraft.
Police spokesperson Charity Munganga-Chanda on Tuesday confirmed the spread of the xenophobic attacks and said 62 shops had been looted, while 256 suspects had been arrested.
When local media visited Chawama Tuesday morning, they found shopkeepers had closed their shops and some residents had stayed indoors.
Following the attacks, panic and fear has gripped Lusaka residents because of the rise in ritual murders that have sparked riots and looting in several townships.
Business in Lusaka, especially in high density residential areas, has ground to a halt. The police presence in the compounds has increased to quell the widespread riots and looting.
On Monday, Lusaka residents from various compounds rioted over escalating ritual killings in Zingalume.
Most shops belonging to Burundian and Rwandan nationals were broken into and goods looted, while all the shops owned by foreign nationals in many other townships that had not been looted, were found closed.
At Chawama police station several foreigners sought refuge and protection.
Burundian businessman Stephen Ndaishimine, who took shelter at Chawama police station with his wife and daughter, said their lives were in danger and he called for protection from the Zambian government.
“I have been badly affected by these riots, these people have stolen all the property in my shop and what has hurt me most is the slow response from the police,” Ndaishimine said. “We called them earlier, but they only showed up after two hours and people were just taking things without any fear. I am just appealing to the government to protect us. We are no longer safe and most of us are innocent,” he said.
Moria Simpungwe, a 61-year-old woman, said: “We are shocked at how our friends considered ‘foreigners’ are being treated. How do you accuse a person of storing human body parts and at the same time loot that shop?”
“This is very shocking and we are asking the government, if possible, to deploy soldiers in our communities to protect the lives of these innocent people. Most of them are innocent and I think the police have failed to do their job,” Simpungwe siad.
In Lusaka’s Garden House area, residents broke into and looted shops belonging to both foreign and local businesses. - African News Agency