A Zambian official has instructed the police to arrest Dr Sishuwa Sishuwa and charge him with sedition after he allegedly published an opinion article in a local paper warning that the democratic space in Zambia was shrinking.
It is reported that Zambia’s ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union, Emmanuel Mwamba, asked the Inspector General of Police, Kakoma Kanganja, to arrest Dr Sishuwa, an academic.
Sedition is a serious offence that refers to the act of inciting revolt or violence against the government with the goal of overthrowing it. If one is arrested for sedition, they are not eligible for bail, and if convicted, they face a seven-year prison sentence.
In the article, Dr Sishuwa warned that there was an increasing lack of trust in (and outright contempt for) formal institutions – such as the judiciary, the Electoral Commission of Zambia and the police – as arbiters of the contest between those who wield state power and those seeking to acquire it.
He further warned that there could be political unrest after the August elections as these were high stakes polls “featuring two ruthless groups of political elites… [and that] both groups see the August election as a matter of life and death”.
Finally, he worried that what could cause unrest is “the incriminating silence of international, mainly Western, institutions”.
MISA Zimbabwe position
MISA is following the developments in Zambia very closely. The threat of arrest that Dr Sishuwa faces for expressing himself, is illustrative of the declining freedom of expression environment, and by extension, democracy in Zambia.
We urge the Zambian authorities to take note of the revised Declaration on the Principles of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.
The Declaration stresses the importance of non-interference with freedom of opinion, as is the case with Dr Sishuwa
MISA Zimbabwe Regional Alert