Lusaka – Zambian authorities arrested more than 200 people for rioting and ransacking Rwandan-owned shops in Lusaka over allegations that foreigners were behind a string of ritual killings, a minister said on Tuesday.
“We have so far arrested 211 suspects in connection with the riots that Lusaka experienced yesterday and 11 on suspicion of being behind the ritual killings,” Davis Mwila told AFP.
The violence started in Zingalume and George slums in the capital on Monday in the wake of the recent murders of at least seven people, whose body parts such as ears, hearts and penises had been removed.
But the riots later spread to nearly all of Lusaka’s slums, with an AFP reporter witnessing hundreds of residents stoning houses and shops owned by foreign nationals on Tuesday morning.
Zambia hosts 6 400 Rwandan refugees, and community leader Frodouald Ntezimana said his compatriots in the capital had deserted their homes and shops.
Some foreigners sought refuge at police stations.
“For now we shall allow them to stay at the various stations but we have deployed police in various townships to quell the situation,” said Mwila.
The protests forced Mwila to address the nation on state television late Monday where he appealed for calm.
“Some criminal elements in Lusaka with criminal intent took advantage of the pain and grief we all felt over the suspected ritual killings that have rocked the city of Lusaka since March 16.
“These criminal elements sparked off attacks on shops owned by foreigners and Zambian nationals operating in the high density areas in the north and west of the city of Lusaka.”
The looters made off with food, drinks, refrigerators and other electrical appliances.
Mwila blamed the riots on false allegations that a suspected ritual killer of foreign nationality had been released from police custody.