Saturday, April 16, 2011

Liamba links Sihope’s amputation to detention

Liamba links Sihope’s amputation to detention
By Mwala Kalaluka in Mongu
Sat 16 Apr. 2011, 04:01 CAT

THE Human Rights Commission is only serving the interests of those who wield power and not those of the poor people, says a 71-year-old former Lozi treason accused.

Commenting on the government’s claims that the condition that caused the amputation of another 70-year-old Mongu man’s leg shortly after his detention on treason charges in Lusaka had nothing to do with his detention, Nayoto Liamba said the government was just trying to run away from the truth.

The government, through Police Inspector General Francis Kabonde, has been claiming that the gangrene condition that led to the amputation of Mwiya Sihope’s right leg at Mongu’s Lewanika General Hospital was not connected to his detention at Lusaka Central Prison.

Liamba, who was arrested and detained with Sihope in Lusaka but later taken to Mumbwa Prison where he was acquitted on riot charges, said the cramped space in the cells caused the condition that led to Sihope’s amputation.

He said in an interview in Mongu yesterday that almost all the Barotse detainees, including himself, sustained swollen feet for the period they were in detention at Lusaka Central Prison.

Liamba said they were picked together with Sihope on the night of January 13, 2011 from their homes and that before he could board the vehicle taking them to Lusaka, Sihope had asked for time to collect warm clothing because he was asthmatic.

“When we got to Lusaka, from the 14th, 15th he looked fine but from 17th up to 19th when we were taken to the cells he used to complain that his blood pressure was going up and that he was having difficulties to breath,” Liamba said. “He requested to go to the hospital but the arresting officers did not pay attention to him.”
Liamba said instead Sihope was placed in cell number four where people that had diverse ailments were kept.

“Still he was complaining over the police’s failure to take him to the hospital,” he said. “The situation got worse until when we (his colleagues) intervened that he be taken to the hospital and that we had spoken to the prison warders.”

Liamba said Sihope was subsequently taken to the University Teaching Hospital UTH where he was admitted for about a week.
Liamba said when Sihope came back he told them that he was feeling much better.

“But two days later in the evening at around 16:30 when we were being locked in the cells, Sihope said he felt a sharp pain in the right hand and that he cried the whole night,” Liamba said. “The problem in that place remand is that when you have been locked in for the night they cannot let you out unless someone dies.”

Liamba said the next day he went to inquire how Sihope was and he told him that he had not slept because of the pain.

“Later we complained to the warders that he should be taken to the hospital,” he said. “He was taken to the UTH where his doctor told him that it was a normal thing and that he should just be exercising.”

However, Liamba said Sihope’s condition worsened because Zambian prisons were not for people that were sick, adding that if Sihope had not being detained his leg would not have been amputated.

“A cell which is six to eight metres you find that there are 109 people sleeping there. It is very congested,” he said. “Like for me since I went in there I could not manage to sleep, it was just sitting the whole night for 56 days almost and you find that almost all of us who were detained sustained swollen feet.”
Liamba said his legs stopped swelling when he was transferred to Mumbwa Prison.
“The way we used to sleep in the cells is what caused the condition that led to Mr. Sihope’s amputation,” he said. “It is the cramped state that caused that condition because if he was not arrested he would not have been in that state.”

Liamba said he was disappointed that the HRC never visited Lusaka Central Prison or Mumbwa Prison to find out how the detainees were being kept there.
“We even complained as to why the Human Rights Commission never came to the prison,” Liamba said. “If what we are saying are lies let them HRC go to the prison with journalists so that they see how people sleep in the cells.”

Liamba said the government was just trying duck the truth.

“They know that they are wrong,” said Liamba. “The Human Rights people only defend the rights of the rich and powerful because us the poor people are never considered.”

Following the publication of the picture showing Sihope’s amputated leg in The Post edition of Wednesday, people posing as hospital officials asked his daughter, Ngenda, as to who had taken the picture.

Sihope’s wife, Inonge, said Ngenda told them that anyone could have taken the picture because so many people visited the bed side.



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