Michael Sata won the presidency of Zambia in 2011 when his Patriotic Front (PF) unseated the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy which had held power for 20 years. Since assuming the presidency, Sata has been repeatedly accused of sponsoring political militias to silence and attack civilian opponents. The US recently expressed alarm at the rise in attacks against the political leadership of the opposing parties (Udoh, 2014).
Figure 1 shows that violence against civilians has not yet reached the level of the disputed 2006 elections and the tense following year. However, violence against civilians has increased substantially since the start of Sata’s presidency in 2011, giving credence to the criticisms of the international community and domestic opposition.
Political cadres allied with the PF are accused of being complicit in a significant portion of the violence. Figure 2 shows that the PF perpetrates a large proportion of the aggregate incidence of violence against civilians. Violence committed by the PF spiked in Q2 2013. During this time reports emerged that the PF had created a special wing of the security services to act as a political militia (CDDR, 2013).
Unidentified Armed Groups are the major perpetrator of violence against civilians during 2014. A closer look at the violent events attributed to unidentified groups finds that in 50% of these cases opposition party figures and activists were the victims. This raises the possibility that PF political violence has not disappeared but rather changed from overt to covert in order to distance the regime from the violence.
Another major cause for concern is Sata’s reported ill health. The president was flown to Johannesburg in May after a sudden deterioration in his health and opposition activists have started to claim that Sata is dying (Africa Research Bulletin, 2014). If the rumours prove to be true it could split the PF violently. Two factions of the PF fatally clashed last year in a dispute over control of the party offices (Udoh, 2013). Should Sata vacate his post before the scheduled election in 2016, PF cadre violence could once again turn inwards as well as outwards.
Africa Research Bulletin, 2014. Zambia: Fears For President’s Health. Africa Research Bulletin: Political, Social and Cultural Series, 51(6), p.20173C.
Carlucci, P., 2013. Two Years On for Sata: the Success Story and Its Dark Side. Think Africa Press, 26 September 2013 http://thinkafricapress.com/zambia/sata-pf-after-two-years-record-development-repression[Accessed 22 July 2014].
CDDR, 2013. Stop State-Sponsored Violence in Zambia, Demands CDDR. Mwebantu, 31 May 2013 http://www.mwebantu.com/2013/05/31/stop-state-sponsored-violence-in-zambia-demands-cddr/ [Accessed 23 July 2014].
Mulega, E., 2013. Zambia: Ruling Party Trains Militia to Attack Opposition. All Africa, 24 May 2013 http://allafrica.com/stories/201305250070.html [Accessed 23 July 2014].
Udoh, N., 2014. US tells PF to end violence. Zambia Reports, 25 April 2014 http://zambiareports.com/2014/04/25/us-tells-pf-end-violence/ [Accessed 22 July 2014].
Udoh, N., 2013. Kabimba, GBM fight turns bloody. Zambia Reports, 7 November 2013 http://zambiareports.com/2013/11/07/kabimba-gbm-fight-turns-bloody/ [Accessed 22 July 2014].