Zambian President Edgar Lungu has ordered the deployment of the military to quell electoral violence ahead of the 12 August elections, the head of state said Sunday.
Violence has spread to various parts of the country
In several parts of the country, supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) and the United Party for National Development (UPND) opposition have clashed using machetes, axes, slashers, catapults and other objects.
Violence has been reported in the Zambian capital Lusaka as well as Northern, Southern and Muchinga provinces.
“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 as part of measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus, clashes between opposing political parties have overwhelmed the police, he said.
“Maintaining law and order is a daily chore of the police but sometimes they need help from other security wings,” Lungu said.
Political analyst Lee Habasonda described the move as “draconian.”
“The situation has not reached the levels where the military should be on the streets,” Habasonda, a politics lecturer at the University of Zambia, told AFP.
Rights group Amnesty International said in a recent report that the government of the southern African nation had grown increasingly intolerant of dissent since Lungu replaced Michael Sata following his death in 2014.
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.