Riots Spread Through Lusaka After Six Die In Suspected Ritual Killings


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Lusaka residents looted shops during riots that occurred after six people died in suspected ritual killings. The riots were in part due to rumors that foreigners were involved in the killings, but Zambia Police, in an April 20 statement, refuted those rumors. Prudence Phiri, GPJ Zambia

Police say false rumors sparked looting in Zambia’s capital city this week. Two people died in the riots, more than 60 shops were looted and more than 250 people were arrested. Protesters originally took to the streets to demand police action after a series of suspicious deaths.

LUSAKA, ZAMBIA — A spate of recent killings in this capital city’s densely-populated slums of Zingalume and George sent throngs of people to the streets, where they protested to demand police action. The deaths are widely believed to be ritual killings.

But what started as a peaceful protest turned ugly as people began throwing stones and looting shops, primarily those owned by foreigners. The looting quickly spread to other slums in Lusaka, including Chawama, Kanyama, Chaisa, Kabanana, Mandevu and Chipata.

According to a statement released by Davies Mwila, the Minister of Home Affairs, the looting was sparked by a false rumor that police had released a foreign national suspected to be a ritual killer.

Police and military were deployed to restore peace, he says.

Charity Munganga Chanda, a spokesperson for Zambia’s police service, also released a statement, noting that the riots began when a rumor spread that human body parts had been found in a foreigner’s shop.

Since mid-March, six people have been killed in Matero constituency. In two cases, hearts were removed from the bodies, and all six bodies had missing ears and genitals, Chanda says.

Two more people died during the riots, when they were burned to death in Kanyama, a Lusaka slum, according to Chanda’s statement.

In total, 62 shops, most of which are owned by foreigners, were looted, according to Chanda. Those actions led to the arrest of 256 people.

Chanda says this is the first time the country has experienced widespread riots and looting.

“Our country has been known for peace. Foreigners live here in harmony and we will not tolerate criminality,” she says.

So far, 11 people have been arrested in connection with the ritual killings, Chanda says.

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Prudence Phiri, GPJ Zambia

A woman breaks into tears after her shop is looted by rioters.

Prudence Phiri, GPJ Zambia

Rioters in Lusaka carry a looted refrigerator. Widespread rumors that foreigners were involved in ritual killings helped spark the riots, Zambian police say.

Prudence Phiri, GPJ Zambia

Shops throughout Lusaka were looted during the riots.

Prudence Phiri, GPJ Zambia

Zambian police take a refrigerator to a police station for safe keeping. The refrigerator was stolen during the looting. Police said in an April 20 statement that no human body parts have been found in refrigerators belonging to foreigners, dispelling a rumor that police say helped spark the riots.

Prudence Phiri, GPJ Zambia

Zambian police apprehend a suspected looter during riots that spread throughout the city.

Prudence Phiri, GPJ Zambia

Zambian police officials said in an April 20 statement that criminals took advantage of the rioting to steal from shops belonging to both Zambians and foreigners. That statement noted that two people died in the riots.

Prudence Phiri, GPJ Zambia

Zambian police pursue rioters during the chaos that spread throughout Lusaka, Zambia’s capital.

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Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly referred to Davies Mwila as the inister of Home Affairs, rather than the Minister of Home Affairs. The article has been updated. Global Press Journal regrets this error.