Zambia President Hichilema makes sweeping changes to military, police force

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Newly-elected Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema announced he would be making major changes to the police and military authorities, fulfilling one of his major campaign promises just one week after taking office.

"I am relieving all commissioners of police with immediate effect," he said in a televised address to the nation on Sunday.

He also posted on social media that Remmy Kajoba is now Zambia’s new inspector general of police, while Doris Chilombe will be deputy in charge of administration.

New army and airforce chiefs have been appointed by Hichilema, as well as the new head of the country’s defence wing.

The new president made good on his promise to end brutality from security services after his predecessor Edgar Lungu cracked down during his tenure on rights activists, ordinary Zambians, and opposition groups, including Hichilema himself.

The leader of the opposition has been arrested 17 times, including a stint in prison in 2017 when he was held incommunicado for nearly four months.

According to Amnesty International and a number of other human rights organizations, Zambia under Lungu repressed “freedom of expression, assembly and association”, while the police used harassment and intimidation.

He also called on police to do a thorough probe before detaining suspects.

“No one should be arrested before investigations are concluded," he said.

End of an era

On his sixth attempt for the top job, Hichilema beat Lungu earlier this month by a whopping million votes—even though Lungu had re-jigged the voter registration and had registered more people for his Patriotic Front (PF) party than all the other opposition groups.

At his inauguration speech last Tuesday, Hichilema stressed that the era of political violence was over, and that freedom of the press would be restored. Even before he officially took office, he reinstated the long-maligned private television station Prime TV with immediate effect.

His victory at the polls has been hailed as a great win for democracy on the African continent, especially in light of the number of repressive measures his continental counterparts have used in the name of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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