Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cops shoot dead Mongu youth

Cops shoot dead Mongu youth
By Mwala Kalaluka in Mongu
Sat 15 Jan. 2011, 04:02 CAT

A MAN was shot dead in Mongu town after a fracas erupted between scores of irate residents and police officers over the Barotse Agreement.

And police yesterday took Mongu's community station, Radio Lyambai off-air, for broadcasting materials from one of the groups advocating issues of the Barotseland Agreement.

The unidentified man was shot dead by police officers at Mongu's BP Station, as they tried to push the irate mob further away from the town centre. By 13:20 hours, the man's body was still lying uncollected at the spot as some residents surrounded it.

Three other people were shot and wounded by police in separate incidents.

One of the injured was 22-year-old Caleb Ng’andu of Winela area.

Armed police reinforcement had been conducting patrols in Mongu and Limulunga hours before the Barotse activists were expected to gather for their January 14 public meeting in Limulunga.

Other police officers were stationed at Kaande on the Mongu-Lusaka road where they were spotted checking every vehicle that was arriving in Mongu on Thursday.

Police officers were seen at various vantages around the provincial capital searching and screening people that were headed in the direction of Limulunga where the Barotse activists' meeting was supposed to take place.

Roadblocks were mounted at the Limulunga-Airport road junction, Mabumbu and two more were mounted within Limulunga itself.

Confusion started when police officers, led by their head of operations Dr Solomon Jere, picked up male passengers from about four buses headed for Limulunga at Mabumbu.

The police officers were heard asking the men who were made to sit on the grass by the roadside why there were no women among them.

The passengers were ordered to get into the minibuses and taken to Mongu Central Police Station under police escort.

On the way to the police station around 10.00 hours, the convoy of vehicles, among them the minibuses with the suspects found a barricade of a gutted motor vehicle on the road near OK Restaurant.

Police officers had to get out of the vehicles to clear the barricade. They also had to put out a fire at Blue Gum grounds where they found burning tires.

Several youths blocked the roads with stones and at Kapulanga junction, a mob of irate youths pelted some police officers that wanted to disperse them from the area using teargas. The officers had to speed away to safety.

The police officers managed to disperse people from the town centre, but within 30 minutes the youths had taken over the town while engaging in acts of vandalism along the way.

At about 12:30 hours sloganchanting youths were heard putting up resistance against police officers that were shooting in the air and firing tear gas on Independence Avenue.

According to residents spoken to, the situation in Mongu had become tense and blamed the police officers and President Rupiah Banda's government for what was happening.

Business came to a standstill in Mongu in the morning, as shops, schools and offices were closed in view of the anticipated violent exchanges between the police and the activists.

By noon, sounds of gunfire were still being heard around the town.

A check at Limulunga Royal Village found increased police presence in the usually quiet village.

A group of youths had converged at the local bus station waiting to attend the public meeting as vehicles loaded with armed police officers drove by periodically.
Police officers were seen searching pedestrians who had resorted to walking from Limulunga to Mongu due to the absence of public transport.

A male youth, only identified as Teddy, was picked up by police officers who were in an unregistered Toyota Land Cruiser outside the shops at the village's shopping centre.

As they bundled him behind the open vehicle, one police officer was seen hitting Teddy on the back before stepping on him.

The number of police officers at the Litunga's palace had been increased, with armed mobile police officers patrolling the palace. Movement close to the palace was highly restricted.

Later in the afternoon, youths took over most parts of the town, blocking the roads with logs, vehicle wrecks and various objects. Police were still patrolling the area and they were later joined by the Zambia Army officers.

And about five police officers broke into Radio Lyambai studios around 09:00 hours yesterday and removed a console and computers, cutting off the station's broadcast.

At the time of the incident, the station was broadcasting a pre-recorded interview from the Barotse activists about the Limulunga public meeting.

Radio Lyambai station manager Mukeya Liwena confirmed that the police officers had earlier gone to the station, demanding the compact disc.

Liwena said this was not the first time police were trying to interfere with the operations of the radio station.

Liwena said the police officers were not given the CD because the person who was on duty said it was not there.

Meanwhile, police in the early hours of Friday picked up the husband of BFM national coordinator Grace Muyangana, Pastor Muyangana Muyangana from his Mongu house before taking him to an unknown place. A local musician's family was also harassed by police officers after the artiste known as Skwiz released a song over the Barotse issue.

Kaoma-based BFM national chairman Namushi Nyambe was also picked up in Kaoma around 18:00 hours on Thursday after a meeting with young people.

Around 23:00 hours on Thursday night, unknown people put up burning barricades at a section of the Limulunga-Mongu road at Winela area.

Motorists that went close to the barricade were stoned by unknown people standing at the roadside.

Motorists had to immediately reverse before hastily driving back to Mongu as the unknown people continued to throw stones at them.

The same night, a spokesperson for one group advocating the Barotseland Agreement went on Radio Lyambai, and told the people that the planned Limulunga public meeting would continue as planned despite the intensified security situation.

Another group of Barotse activists calling itself the Barotseland Freedom Movement (BFM) on Thursday night announced a last minute withdrawal from the public meeting on grounds that it had not been sanctioned by the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE).

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