By E. Munshya, LLM, M.Div., MBA
To all police officers, please serve Zambians impartially. Do not shoot the innocent. Do not curtail liberties of our people. Protect President Lungu just as much as you would protect others. If you do not behave well and choose to behave like monsters, note that the world is watching, and politicians will not protect you from the international backlash that will come your way.
Each pound of flesh adorning the skeletons of Zambian citizens is sacred. The blood flowing through the veins of our citizens is precious. The legs of our citizens do not need permission from anyone to crisscross the length and breadth of our sacred soils. Zambians have the constitutionally protected freedom of thought, and the freedom of association. Just as their blood flows freely in their veins, citizens must have the liberty to flow freely from Mongu to Milenge.
Those in power must be accountable to the people of Zambia. However, in a globalized world, accountability goes beyond Zambia’s geography. Leaders in Zambia who cannot be held accountable in Zambia, can be held accountable anywhere else on the planet. You cannot abuse Zambians in Zambia, and hope that you will get away from being accountable to Zambians not living in Zambia. Diaspora Zambians are not just “distant noisy makers”, they are part and parcel of the nation. Diaspora Zambians are as Zambian as those who are at home. If you mistreat Zambians in Zambia surely know that Zambians in the diaspora will hold you accountable.
Ms. Stella Libongani has been appointed as ambassador-designate to Canada after being dismissed as the chief of police. As a Zambian resident in Canada, I object to Ms. Libongani’s appointment. I would request the Canadian authorities to withhold their diplomatic accreditation for this particular ambassador designate.The government of Canada should be notified of the brutality of Zambia’s future diplomat coming to Ottawa who has presided over a police force in Zambia that has not respected individual liberties of our people.
As Chief of Police, Ms. Libongani blocked Zambians from mingling freely. She insisted that Zambians needed permission from her in order for them to buy Chibuku at Chisokone Market. Those who did not get permission from her and her police force were allegedly brutally assaulted, shot at and grievously harmed. Armed police officers stormed into churches in April 2015 to cause mayhem and defile religious liberties. A citizen had his home searched and drugs planted on him during Ms. Libongani’s reign as police chief (she did not plant those drugs, however). While Libongani was police chief, police prevented citizens from visiting Chipata and Chingola, chasing them “nge mfuko isho bapepeka mubwendo”. When asked, Ms. Libongani used the Public Order Act as justification for why citizens of our republic should be chased “nga bakapanga”. Ms. Libongani is very educated. She ought to know that the Public Order Act in its current form does not justify police brutality. Nowhere in the Act, is it required for citizens to get permission from the state before they meet their neighbours in Chiwempala or before they go to Pick-n-Pay to buy half loaves of bread.
A police chief who was allegedly so reckless with the lives of Zambians in Zambia cannot possibly have the legitimacy to represent Zambians to Canada. The United Party for National Development (UPND) issued a statement on Ms. Libongani’s redeployment to Canada. Spokesman Kakoma hoped that Ms. Libongani would now learn from an advanced democracy like Canada how to respect liberties. I do differ with the UPND’s take on Libongani. Ms. Libongani cannot learn in Canada what she failed to learn in Zambia. UPND needs to be consistent in condemning brutality without acceding to President Lungu’s actions of passing the buck onto Canada for unrepentant suppressants of constitutional liberties.
There is nothing that Ms. Libongani will bring to Zambians who live in Canada. She cannot build or inspire confidence in the Zambians who study and work there. I do not in any way speak for all Zambians in Canada, but the thought that a police chief with a record of such grievous brutality will come to Canada should be a concern.
Some are saying that Ms. Libongani was simply following orders in her brutality. If we are to believe that nonsense, then we must be all the more concerned. As an ambassador, she would still be getting orders. If she was not able to say no to illegal orders when she was police chief how would she be able to say no to illegal orders when she has diplomatic immunity in Canada? If she abused the Public Order Act in Zambia, what assurances are there that she will not abuse the law when she is in Canada? While I agree that President Lungu is responsible for all police brutality, he is by no means the only one responsible. Those who have control over state issued machine guns, bullets and bombs have personal responsibility for their conduct. Police officers cannot hide behind the shield of politicians to escape personal responsibility for their brutality. Those who wield guns, are personally responsible for each bullet that spurts from their AK 47s.
I suggest that President Lungu promotes Ms. Musata Kaunda Banda to full ambassador in Ottawa. That will save Zambia a lot of kwachas. Alternatively, Lungu could transfer the diplomat in Nairobi to Ottawa. She can fit in very well as she speaks French and her record at the police was superb. She is evidence that a lady can hold a huge gun but still respect constitutional liberties. Why not bring Muntemba to Canada, and then send Libongani to Zimbabwe? President Mugabe can throw a welcome bash for her.
Suggested citation: Munshya E. (2015). I Object: Why Ms. Libongani should not come to Canada as Zambia’s High Commissioner. (www.eliasmunshya.org). Elias Munshya Blog (11 December 2015)