Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rupiah’s militias

Rupiah’s militias
By The Post
Thu 16 Sep. 2010, 04:00 CAT

A society that condones violence in any form is headed for destruction.
Leaders who think that violence is a legitimate means of ensuring their political success are irresponsible and a danger to society and themselves.

There is no acceptable reason for a leader to condone violence actively or indirectly. But this seems to be Rupiah Banda’s position on violence against his perceived political enemies. Since he became President, he has never been heard to categorically condemn violence perpetrated by his cadres. If anything, Rupiah seems prepared to find excuses and explanations that justify violence perpetrated by the MMD. This is what explains the confidence that people like William Banda seem to have about them. They know that they have the protection of the President.

We say this in light of the threats made against Mongu Diocese Bishop Paul Duffy by Copperbelt MMD information secretary Chiko Chibale. Chibale told the nation that: “I want to warn that Catholic Bishop Duffy of Mongu that we will travel to Mongu for him. We want to go there and sort him out. He is a disgruntled bishop who wants to bring anarchy in this country but before he does that, we will go for him as the military of the party because he is forcing us to take the law in our own hands.” Chibale went further to warn that the MMD Copperbelt crack squad felt that members in Mongu were treating Bishop Duffy with kids’ gloves. He also went further to say as a commander of the crack squad on the Copperbelt, he was not going to allow Bishop Duffy to attack the President. As though what he had said was not unfortunate enough, Chibale also explained what this crack squad he was referring to is. He said: “As the ruling party MMD, we have what we call a crack squad on the Copperbelt. It is more like a military in the political circles and I am the commander of this crack squad on the Copperbelt.”

There are two things that are fundamentally wrong with the way this crackpot is carrying on. First, he has the audacity to publicly threaten violence against a priest whose only sin was to tell the nation that the Western Province of Zambia is ready for change. According to Rupiah’s crack squad, this is an insult for which violence must be meted out to silence Bishop Duffy. In a normal country, Chibale would not be walking on the streets because the police would have swung into action to deal with his threat of violence against a person whose only crime was to exercise his constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression. Bishop Duffy, like any other subject resident in this country, is free to comment on matters that are in the public domain. But clearly, Rupiah does not appreciate the Bishop’s right to comment. We say this because if Rupiah respected Bishop Duffy’s entitlement to a human right of freedom of expression, he would, as president of the MMD and more importantly head of state, condemn this brazen breach of our laws.

No one is allowed to threaten violence. But in this country, it seems it is only those who are in the opposition who are not allowed to threaten violence. Yesterday when Rupiah was in Chawama opening a clinic, he found it appropriate to talk about violence against spouses in clear reference to Kasama Central member of parliament Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba’s, popularly known as GBM, case. But it is clear that his comment on that case had nothing to do with his disapproval of violence. It was just a matter of politics for him. This is clear because the man who was able to condemn GBM did not find time to talk about the serious threat of violence that his party on the Copperbelt is making against Bishop Duffy.

What is more worrying about the behaviour of the MMD on the Copperbelt, over and above threatening violence, is the admission that Rupiah’s MMD has created militias. When we have said before that Rupiah’s MMD is sponsoring violence and condoning it as a result, they have denied it. But today one of their own members has admitted that they have these militias and in fact, he is one of the commanders. Surely, no political party or any other organisation is allowed to form a militia or any other group whose purpose is to carry out acts of violence against those that it may disagree with. This is a criminal offence.

Chibale’s belonging to such a militia is a matter which should ordinarily invite consequences, but not in Rupiah’s Zambia. To Rupiah, if you are his supporter, you can never commit a criminal offence. It is only his opponents or perceived enemies that commit offences. We have no doubt that if that MMD crackpot was an opposition member, the disgraced Inspector General of Police Francis Kabonde would have swung into action and by now, a chorus of calls for the law to take its course would have come from all sorts of corners, including the usual suspects – the MMD sponsored non-governmental individuals or NGIs who are quick to comment on matters that benefit Rupiah and disadvantage the opposition.

During the Mufumbwe by-election, we told the nation that Rupiah’s MMD had bussed militias from Lusaka and the Copperbelt to go and cause mayhem during that by-election. Kabonde stood by and ensured that the MMD was protected when its cadres unleashed an unusual level of violence against the opposition during that by-election. Our people have not forgotten that rather than arresting the people who were perpetrating the violence, Kabonde targeted the opposition UPND.

The confirmation of the existence of the militias should not be taken lightly by our people. This is a serious matter. Rupiah’s desperation for power seems to have no bounds. This is the only way one can explain why a president who is self-respecting should keep quiet when his party is publicly threatening people and confirming the existence of nefarious bands of thugs that are going to be unleashed on those of our people who express contrary views to what Rupiah and his minions want. It is not the first time that Rupiah is keeping quiet on threats of violence and in some cases, instances of actual violence that have occurred. We as a newspaper have been threatened by the apparent MMD militia commander in chief William Banda. Rupiah, his government and the minions that surround him are quiet. This kind of behaviour gives a clear indication that this is not William Banda’s idea. He is merely expressing a wish that has blessing at the highest level in the MMD. But even worse, Rupiah has failed to categorically condemn violence against journalists. In fact, in one of the few if not the only time that Rupiah has talked about this, he failed to condemn violence but instead justified the behaviour of the hoodlums that he thinks are going to help him win the next election.

The threats of violence by the Copperbelt MMD should not be dismissed as idle threats. The MMD militias are capable of unleashing ghastly acts of violence. Recently, we saw what happened at the funeral of the late Mpulungu member of parliament Lameck Chibombamilimo. Ng’andu Magande was assaulted and his clothes torn. Who from the MMD condemned that kind of behaviour? There was mayhem at the church service where William Banda unleashed his Lusaka militia on a hapless band of PF cadres who were savaged in the most brutal way. Again, no one in the MMD condemned these cowardly acts.

Perhaps one of the worst examples of how deplorable the MMD militia violence can be was the attack on Zambezi West UPND member of parliament Charles Kakoma during the Mufumbwe by-election. This poor fellow was attacked as he slept. Up to today, no one has been arrested or even questioned in connection with that attack. Shameful Kabonde behaves as though he does not know that that incident ever happened.

Kakoma’s experience tells us not to take the threats being made on Bishop Duffy by the MMD militia lightly. They have acted before and gotten away with impunity and there is every reason to believe that they will do it again.

The threats on Bishop Duffy should not be understood to be directed at him alone. This is a threat against all those who dare to speak their minds. The MMD is not ready to listen to contrary views.

But those like Rupiah who seem to have an appetite for violence when they think that it will benefit them politically should know that their schemes cannot do anyone any good, not even themselves. They will live to regret the day when they embraced violence. Violence only begets violence. And the MMD should not think that they have a monopoly over the capacity to cause mayhem. The only reason they might think so is because our people have always chosen peace over violence. But no one should take the people for granted. Rupiah must have the moral courage to say no to violence wherever it is coming from. Rupiah must act to disband the MMD militias that have been created during his tenure as president of the party.

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