Following his arrest on Tuesday, April 11, opposition leader Hakainde "HH" Hichilema, head of the United Party for National Development (UPND), was formally charged in court on April 18 with attempting to overthrow the government between October 10, 2016, and April 8, 2017. The court magistrate is expected to hand down a ruling after the prosecution responds to issues raised by the defense. Hichilema will likely remain in custody until that time.
Opposition protests and general social unrest are possible in the coming days.
Hichilema was initially arrested on April 11 on charges of treason after his motorcade allegedly refused to allow President Edgar Lungu's convoy to pass on a roadway between Limulunga and Mongu while traveling to a ceremony. This charge was reduced to disobeying instructions from a police officer. Hichilema, who was already out on bail for an October 2016 arrest, was later arrested near Lusaka after police raided his home.
Hakainde Hichilema and his deputy, Geoffrey Mwamba, were arrested in Luanshya, Copperbelt province, on Wednesday, October 5, 2016. According to the authorities, the two men were arrested on suspicion of sedition and unlawful assembly. Officials stated that the UPND leaders were arrested for being connected to protests that took place on September 26.
Hichilema has continued to protest against the re-election of President Lungu following the vote on August 15, 2016. The UPND petitioned the Constitutional Court to annul the election results, but the appeal was rejected on September 5. Zambian police arrested 133 people across the country for taking part in demonstrations against Lungu in the months after the August election.
Individuals present in the area are advised to avoid all gatherings, political events, and political party offices as violence may flare up without warning. Localized transportation disruptions are likely in the event of protests.