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Zambia's Lungu frees separatist leader, journalist

By AFP

Added 12th November 2019 03:43 PM

Afumba Mombotwa, the leader of Linyungandambo, one of several groups calling for the secession of the country's Western Province, was serving a 10-year jail term.

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Afumba Mombotwa, the leader of Linyungandambo, one of several groups calling for the secession of the country's Western Province, was serving a 10-year jail term.

Zambian President Edgar Lungu on Monday marked his 63rd birthday by pardoning a separatist leader jailed in 2016 for treason for trying to create a new state called Barotseland.

Afumba Mombotwa, the leader of Linyungandambo, one of several groups calling for the secession of the country's Western Province, was serving a 10-year jail term.

The secessionist bid by the mainly Lozi ethnic group dates back decades.

Barotseland was a protectorate of Britain but entered into a deal at the end of colonial rule in 1964 to become a Zambian province.

Under an agreement signed with independent Zambia's first president, Kenneth Kaunda, the region was supposed to have limited self-rule, but the Lozi group say this was never respected.

In 2013, dozens of activists were rounded up in a crackdown. They were later freed without charge.

Lungu's office said he had also pardoned journalist Derrick Sinjela, who was jailed for 18 months in December for contempt of court for accusing the judiciary of taking bribes from a commercial bank.

"To mark his 63rd birthday which falls today President Lungu has pardoned five inmates from various correctional facilities," said a statement from the presidency.

In power since 2015, Lungu is facing mounting complaints that he is cracking down on dissent and seeking to consolidate power ahead of elections in 2021.

Last week he denied allegations he is stifling opposition.

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