Zambia Elections: Army deployed after ‘murder’ of Patriotic Front leader

Zambia’s security services were deployed on Election Day following the killings of a senior Patriotic Front official and the brother of another leader from the same party.

President Edgar Lungu, a candidate in the elections, said violence had rendered it unlikely that polling was free and fair in at least three provinces.

On August 12 as voters queued to cast ballots in a keenly contested general election, the leader of President Lungu’s Patriotic Front in North Western Province, Jackson Kungo, was allegedly murdered in what was suspected to be a case of political violence. The same day, Emmanuel Chihili, the brother of another leader, was also allegedly murdered.

Late on Thursday, President Lungu said the “mayhem” in the province as well as in “parts of Western, Southern provinces” had “effectively rendered the elections in the three provinces not free and fair”. 

President Lungu indicated supporters of the United Party for National Development and its presidential candidate, Mr Hakainde Hichilema, were to blame.

“How can you talk about free and fair elections when our opponents have taken this election as war?” he said. “When people say elections were not free and fair, they accuse the ruling party, but look at North Western Province, some parts of Western and Southern provinces, who is causing the mayhem? The opposition.”

President Lungu said he directed the army to send reinforcements to the affected provinces to “ensure peace returns to the rest of the country”. 

An Electoral Commission of Zambia spokeswoman told state radio that appropriate action would be taken against those involved in the killing.

Prior to the election, President Lungu deployed the army after two party supporters were killed in early August, and authorities temporarily suspended campaigning in three areas.

There was also a blackout on social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp on Election Day.

Electoral officials said results should be ready 72 hours after the close of polling stations.

Some polling stations remained open after the 6pm closing time to ensure those in queues could cast their ballots for their preferred presidential, legislative and local government candidates.