Row over mysterious disappearance of Zambian MP

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Row over mysterious disappearance of Zambian MP
Emmanuel Banda's disappearance has been a huge talking point in Zambia

BBC | The mysterious disappearance of an MP in Zambia has sparked arrests, accusations and a closely watched police investigation.

Independent MP Emmanuel Banda went missing from capital city Lusaka in the early hours of Saturday morning in unclear circumstances.

He resurfaced late on Sunday night at a farm in a town some 43km (27 miles) south of Lusaka.

Mr Banda, also known as "Jay Jay", has alleged he was abducted.

Zambia's Human Rights Commission (HRC) - an independent watchdog whose commissioners are appointed by the government - has urged the nation's police to accelerate their investigation into the matter.

“It must be noted that the abduction of Mr Banda sows seeds of discord in the country, a situation that has potential to result into widespread violation of human rights if not properly and urgently addressed," HRC spokesperson Mweelwa Muleya said after members of the organisation had visited Mr Banda in hospital on Tuesday.

“Therefore, there is urgent need to expeditiously but thoroughly investigate the matter and subject the perpetrators to the due process of the law in order to end impunity of the dreadful criminal act of abduction.”

Mr Banda has been an MP since 2021 and is close to former President Edgar Lungu, who lost the presidency to Hakainde Hichilema that year.

His disappearance in Lusaka on Saturday, as well as his discovery, was first announced by members of the former governing party, the Patriotic Front (PF), of which Mr Lungu is a member.

“He was found lying on the kitchen doorstep of the farmhouse, claiming to have been dumped by unknown persons a few metres from the farm," police spokesperson Rae Hamoonga said.

"Honourable Banda complained of general body pains, and bruises were observed on his back."

Mr Banda was later transported to Lusaka and and admitted to Maina Soko Military Hospital, where he remained as of Tuesday evening.

In the aftermath of his disappearance, police have arrested Edith Nawakwi, leader of the opposition Forum for Development and Democracy party, and civil rights activist Brebner Changala, both of whom accused the ruling party of being behind the abduction.

The pair have been charged with seditious practices.

Also arrested are independent MP Munir Zulu for hate speech and the PF's Maureen Mabongo on both hate speech and sedition charges.

Home Affairs Minister Jack Mwiimbu has denied the state’s involvement in the matter.

“We will not leave any stone unturned because it appears there is something more behind this matter,” he told a press briefing.

On social media, speculation that Mr Banda could have faked an abduction for political mileage is rife. His family has denied such accusations.

His lawyer, Sakwiba Sikota, says Mr Banda is distressed and disheartened at the manner in which the authorities have handled his case.

He alleged that the police forcibly took the lawmaker to Maina Soko Military Hospital against his family’s wishes.

President Hichilema has since called for unity as his government faces allegations of intolerance and human rights abuses, which he denies.

“Let us unite. Let us not divide this country. Let us not talk tribe... if you start dividing people, how will we rule them?” he remarked on Tuesday as he arrived in the north of Zambia for a two-day working visit.

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