Police in North Western province have arrested 12 people of Changalala village in Zambezi for rioting after officers stopped them from burying their late headman in an undesignated area, earmarked for a market.

In a statement, North Western Province commissioner of police Auxensio Daka explained that rioters who where armed with machetes, stones, catapults and sticks fought battles with the police, damaging property and injuring three officers in the process.

“On November 11, 2017, a riot took place in Zambezi in which people of Chingalala village, fought battles with the police and damaged window panes of a building belonging to the ministry of agriculture, offices at the air strip and the wind screen of a land cruiser belonging to the ministry of livestock and fisheries. Officers went to the site to prevent the burial but they were out numbered by the people at the site and therefore decided to retreat. But a group of the mourners chased the police whilst throwing stones at them whilst others continued burying. When the officers reached the station, the very group of people appeared from the direction of the air-strip armed with machetes, stones, catapults and sticks. They charged towards government buildings whilst throwing stones causing some window panes to be damaged,” Daka stated.

“Officers charged towards the group which was riotous and managed to apprehend 12 people of which five where male and seven where females. Three officers were injured as a result of the riot. These are; Detective Sergeant Zambwe, a police intelligence officer of Mufumbwe who had a twisted ankle after been pulled from a moving vehicle by rioters, Sergeant Yuyi of Solwezi Central Police, who sustained a painful right leg after falling from a moving motor vehicle and Detective Constable Nkhandu of Kabompo police station who sustained a swollen face and general body pains after being stoned by the riotous.”

He further stated that the 12 would be charged for the offence of riotous behaviour and for causing damage to property.

“Prior to the incidence, information was received that these people wanted to burn the police station like what Mufumbwe people did. The police will arrest and charge the above people for the offence of riotous behavior by damaging buildings, contrary to Section 82 of the Penal Code, Chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia. The act of burying the headman at the disputed land shall continue to create problems and conflict. Therefore, there is need to follow up the matter to ensure a peaceful solution is found,” Daka stated.

He further explained what led to the riots.

“The background to these riots is that after the death of headman Kakoho, a Luvale from the east bank, who stayed in Chingalala village, the family and royal establishment, decided to bury the headman in Chingalala village which is disputed land between the Luvales and Lundas. This area is not designated as a burial site or a cemetery. The Luvale of Chingalala community had made their decision to dig the grave in that area and bury their late headman. When this information reached the police, they made consultations with the council officials concerning the matter and where advised that the village headman Kakoho should not be buried in the place as it was reserved for a modern market. Further, there are two established burial sites in the district, one is behind Food Reserve Agency shade and the other one in Chilengi area,” Daka stated.

He said the land dispute was before court.

“The council officials further said that the land in question had a dispute between the council and chief Ishindi and the matter was before court. The police tried to find a way of engaging the bereaved community to reason with them but the Chingalala community and the family members claimed that the area was a plot for the deceased village headman,” stated Daka.

“On November 11, 2017, information was received that the Luvale community had decided to go ahead with the burial at the disputed land. Police decided to seek intervention of senior chief Ndungu, but the meeting reached a dead lock as the chief blamed the police to be siding with the group of the Lunda speaking people. He suspected that they were acting upon the complaints received from them ( Lunda speaking people). Police later decided to stop the community from going ahead with the burial.”