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Zambia opposition leader released as treason charges dropped | Coastweek

LUSAKA Zambia (Xinhua) -- Zambia's leading opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema [front center right] waves to the crowd after being released from prison in Lusaka Zambia's leading opposition leader on Wednesday said he has always been innocent of the treason charges he was slapped with. Hakainde Hichilema, who was freed by a judge on Wednesday morning after the state prosecutor dropped charges against him of plotting to overthrow the government, said he remains resolute that the treason charge was a political machination meant to silence him. XINHUA PHOTO - DAVID KASHIKI

Zambia opposition leader released as treason charges dropped

LUSAKA  Zambia (Xinhua) -- Zambia’s leading opposition leader on Wednesday said he has always been innocent of the treason charges he was slapped with.

Hakainde Hichilema, who was freed by a judge on Wednesday morning after the state prosecutor dropped charges against him of plotting to overthrow the government, said he remains resolute that the treason charge was a political machination meant to silence him.

Hichilema and five others were arrested in April this year and have been in custody since then as treason is not bailable in Zambia.

“We have been innocent and shall be,” he said in a brief statement posted on his Facebook page.

He however said he wanted a better Zambia.

The opposition leader later told his supporters at the party’s secretariat that he was committed to peace and stability of the country in order to ensure development.

He said the country was divided on political lines and called for purpose of unity from all stakeholders.

The opposition leader further said the time he spent in prison had not crushed him but made him even stronger.

“We cannot continue living the way we are, it is uncomfortable. It is our collective duty to bring back unity in our country. We are so divided,” he added.

His release sparked wide celebrations in the Zambian capital as his convoy was driven from the Chimbokaila Prison where he was held to the party’s secretariat.

Hichilema’s arrest had heightened tension in the southern African nation after last year’s disputed elections, with stakeholders calling for dialogue to ease the tension.

Last week, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scott visited Zambia and met both President Edgar Lungu and the opposition leader where she facilitated a process of dialogue between the two political foes.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo also visited the southern African nation and held talks with Lungu and the opposition leader.

In June, church leaders from the influential Catholic Church held talks with Lungu and called for the release of the opposition leader in order to ease tension in the country. The church leaders also visited the opposition leader in prison.

Hichilema, 55, is a wealthy businessman who narrowly lost to Lungu in last year’s elections but has refused to concede defeat, claiming the vote was stolen from him.

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UPDATES:

Commonwealth hails release of Zambia’s main opposition leader

LUSAKA Zambia (Xinhua) -- The head of the Commonwealth on Wednesday hailed the release of the country’s leading opposition leader, saying the move will help to progress peaceful dialogue.

Hakainde Hichilema and his five other co-accused were freed by a judge on Wednesday morning after the state prosecutor dropped the treason charges against him.

They were arrested in April this year and have been in custody since then as treason is not bailable in Zambia.

Patricia Scotland, the secretary-general of the Commonwealth said the decision by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to issue a nolle prosequi to discontinue the case was understandable and reasonable as it offers a unique opportunity for the country to move forward in the interest of all citizens and to achieve political cohesion and reconciliation through dialogue.

“This is an opportunity for Zambians and their leaders to show the world that the Republic of Zambia still remains a symbol of peace and a beacon of stability, unity and political tolerance in Africa and the Commonwealth,” she said in a statement.

She hoped that Zambian President Edgar Lungu and the opposition leader will put their differences behind and jointly seize the opportunity to address the issues that have deeply divided the southern African nation following last year’s disputed elections.

Last week, Commonwealth chief visited Zambia and met both Lungu and the opposition leader where she facilitated a process of dialogue between the two political foes.

She has since appointed the Commonwealth peace envoy Professor Ibrahim Gambari as her representative to facilitate for dialogue between the leaders.

The Commonwealth, she said, would work towards ensuring that dialogue outcomes were implemented in good time for the 2021 general elections.

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Zambian minister in court over refusal to grant licenses for marijuana cultivation

LUSAKA Zambia (Xinhua) -- An opposition political party in Zambia has dragged a minister to court for refusal to grant licenses for cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes, a statement said on Wednesday.

The Green Party, an advocate for legalization of marijuana, has dragged health minister Chitalu Chilufya to court seeking a judicial review in a matter which it is challenging the decision by the minister to refuse to grant the opposition party a license to import, export, cultivate, produce, possess, sale and the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

“This serves to inform that we applied for judicial review in Kabwe High Court challenging the decision of the honorable minister of health Dr. Chitalu Chilufya’s refusal to grant the president of the Green Party a license to import, export, cultivate, produce, possess, sale distribute, and use of cannabis for medicinal purposes,” Peter Sinkamba, the party’s president said in the statement.

The party, he said, wanted the court to declare that the minister’s decision to refuse to grant the license unlawful, unreasonable and ultra vires and that the use of marijuana for medicinal and scientific purposes was indispensable, hence people with qualifying medical need should not be unduly denied access.

There has been a growing debate in Zambia for authorities to allow the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

In May this year, the minister of health said his ministry will not issue any license for the cultivation and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes because the end to end encryption for marijuana from cultivation to processing for its medicinal value does not exist.

But in March, Minister of Home Affairs Stephen Kampyongo had said the country had laws that allowed the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purpose and that those intending to venture into the business should apply for licenses from the health ministry.

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UNICEF reaffirms support for Zambian children

LUSAKA Zambia (Xinhua) -- The United Nations children’s agency UNICEF on Wednesday reaffirmed its commitment towards addressing issues affecting children in Zambia.

Newly-appointed United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund representative to Zambia Noala Skinner said she will continue building on the successful cooperation with government, the international community and civil society organizations to support the rights and well-being of children and women during her tour of duty, according to a statement released by the agency.

The agency, she said, was committed to supporting Zambia’s integrated and inclusive approach to development so that no one was left behind, adding that it recognizes the country’s multi-faceted nature of sustainable development.

“Zambia is a young nation, we are confident that UNICEF, through its diverse programs, will continue to reach the majority of Zambia’s population (children under the age of 18),” she said.

           

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