Zambia deployed the military to curb escalating political violence ahead of elections on August 12, President Edgar Lungu said on Sunday.
Pockets of violence have been reported in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, as well as northern, southern and Muchinga provinces where supporters of the governing Patriotic Front (PF) and the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) have clashed using machetes, axes, slashers, catapults and other objects.
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Two supporters of the governing party were hacked to death with machetes on Friday by attackers suspected to be members of the main opposition party, police said. Four people were arrested in connection with the killings.
“In order to curb the political violence we have witnessed in the past two days, I have allowed the Zambia Army, Zambia Air Force and Zambia National Service to help the Zambia police in dealing with the security situation,” Lungu said.
Even though the Electoral Commission has banned rallies because of the coronavirus, clashes between opposing political parties have overwhelmed the police.
“Maintaining law and order is a daily chore of the police but sometimes they need help from other security wings,” Lungu said.
Lungu said the military would also ensure that the work of the Electoral Commission, which would conduct the polls, was not interfered with.
The UPND said it was studying Lungu’s statement.
The government of the Southern African nation has grown increasingly intolerant of dissent since Lungu replaced Michael Sata after his death in 2014, rights watchdog Amnesty International has said in a report.
Lungu, 64, is running for a second term in the August 12 election as the copper-rich country battles economic woes.
Lungu’s main rival Hakainde Hichilema has been detained several times since he started contesting the top job.