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Bishops in Zambia Decry “rampant gassing of people, homes, institutions”

Chaos in Lusaka, Zambia after a gassing incident

The reported use of a chemical on people to immobilize and attack them that has resulted in deaths and injuries in various places in Zambia has caught the attention of the Catholic Bishops in the Southern Africa nation. They have, in a collective statement, decried the acts and termed them “criminal and subversive activities.”

“What we have are criminal and subversive activities which seem to be well planned, coordinated and seemingly sponsored aimed at inducing fear and disturbing peace among the citizenry to a point that people cannot sleep peacefully or go about their business,” the Catholic Bishops have stated in their collective on the state of their nation.

In the letter, the Bishops express their deep sadness in “what now appears to be a nationwide disrespect for human life manifested in gassing of the people as well as incidences of mob killing of individuals suspected to be behind the rampant gassing of homes and institutions.”

According to The Southern Times, the acts of immobilizing people by use of a chemical “started in Chingola, a mining town in Zambia near the border with Democratic Republic of Congo some months ago.”

The practice “then spread to other part of the country, targeting schools, health institutions, business premises and household,” the Online version of the Southern Africa Newspaper reported Thursday, February 20 adding, “an unknown chemical is being used to immobilize victims who are then attacked.”

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Terming the acts of gassing people “typical acts of terrorism,” the Catholic Bishops have decried, “As a nation we have reached such alarming levels of disrespect for human life and the destruction of property both private and public.”

They have bemoaned the loss of lives due to occasioned both by attacks but also by retaliation where “suspects have been subjected to mob justice in full view and participation of children and young people in committing such atrocities.”

“Over 10 people have died and an estimated 50 have been arrested in connection with cases of instant mob justice meted out on people suspected of orchestrating widespread gassing of people, fueling concerns of violence in Zambia,” The Southern Times has reported.

In the face of this state of things, the Bishops have, in their four-page statement sent to ACI Africa, provided a rafter of measures to address the unfortunate situation in their country.

“In the name of God, we call for an immediate end to the shedding of blood,” the Bishops stated in their February 21 communique and called on the members of the public not to take the law into their hands.

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“Everyone is innocent until proven guilty by the courts of law,” they stated.

Acknowledging the value of the youth and children in their country’s future, the Prelates appealed that this y

They advocated for safeguarding young people and children from inhuman and scary scenes stating that these should “no longer be subjected to witnessing and/or participating in the murder of suspects in cold blood nor used as tools of violence.”

Subjecting young minds to horrific acts, they said, “is tantamount to breeding a generation of citizens that are not going to respect the sanctity of human life.”

Further, the Bishops called for an end to “irresponsible recording, posting and sharing of graphic materials on social media to the unsuspecting public.”

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“Every Zambian must uphold our traditional, religious and moral values with regard to the sacredness of human life and inviolability of human rights,” the Prelates stated in their nine-person letter addressed “to our dear Catholic faithful and people of good will.”

To the Political Leadership of the Southern Africa nation, the Bishops asked that they “denounce all forms of criminality and subversive activities in order to guarantee peace, tranquility and harmony.”

Referring to the country's opposition and some government officials pointing fingers at each other as to who are the gassing perpetrators, the Prelates asked for “objectivity and responsibility when commenting on matters of public interest.”

“Careless and irresponsible comments are bound to bring further anarchy and confusion,” the Bishops stated addressing themselves to the politicians in their country.

They urged the security agencies in Zambia to be “proactive in detecting and apprehending perpetrators of crime and ensuring the due process of the law is carried out and as a way of deterring criminal activities in our society.”

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To all those involved in the crimes, the Bishops said they “stop forthwith” and repent.

Meanwhile, following the violence in the country, some embassies including the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) have issued travel advisories to their citizens planning to visit the Southern Africa landlocked nation. 

On his part, the country’s President, Edgar Lungu ordered to tackle the worrisome situation in the country and to work with the police service to control the situation so it does not get out hand.