Passport

After Mysterious Ritual Killings, Two Zambians Burned Alive in Witch Hunt

Two Zambians were killed after a witch hunt for Rwandans accused of ritualistically killing civilians.

Zambian Police apprehend an alleged looter in the Zingalume Compound where residents have attacked broken and looted foreign-run shops in Lusaka on April 19, 2016. 
Zambian authorities arrested more than 200 people for rioting and ransacking Rwandan-owned shops in Lusaka over allegations that foreigners were behind a string of ritual killings, a minister said.  / AFP / SALIM DAWOOD        (Photo credit should read SALIM DAWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)
Zambian Police apprehend an alleged looter in the Zingalume Compound where residents have attacked broken and looted foreign-run shops in Lusaka on April 19, 2016. Zambian authorities arrested more than 200 people for rioting and ransacking Rwandan-owned shops in Lusaka over allegations that foreigners were behind a string of ritual killings, a minister said. / AFP / SALIM DAWOOD (Photo credit should read SALIM DAWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

Since March, the mutilated corpses of at least six Zambians have been found in and around the capital of Lusaka, their ears, hearts, and genitals missing in what local police have labeled a spate of “ritualistic killings.”

The brutal murders have gone unsolved, putting the city of some 2 million people on high alert and looking for people to blame. This week, rumors began to float that it was Rwandans who were responsible for the murders, and that they had carried them out believing that the witchcraft would act as a charm and ensure better business in their many Lusaka shops.

In response, angry mobs of Zambians looted and destroyed roughly 60 Rwandan-owned businesses in the city.

On Wednesday, police spokeswoman Charity Munganga said in a statement that two Zambian nationals were burned alive with tires and firewood. Home Affairs Minister Davies Mwila said they were mixed up “in the confusion” of the riots. They were likely mistaken for Rwandans, a small population of whom have lived in Zambia since they fled the genocide in their native country in 1994.

Many of them were Hutu genocidaires who moved to Zambia instead of joining the Rwandan exodus to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rwandans are now the predominant immigrant group in Zambia, although many were forcefully repatriated after the United Nations determined it was safe for them to return to their home country in 2013. This week, many of the Rwandans who remain in Zambia sheltered at police stations to avoid being targeted in the attacks.

Munganga insisted that Rwandans shouldn’t be blamed for the murders and stressed that the riots were based on faulty information.

“No baby or human body parts were found in any fridge belonging to any foreign national,” she said Wednesday. “These statements are coming from people with criminal minds to create alarm among the members of the public and justify their criminality.”

Zambian police have arrested more than 250 people complicit in the riots and that those who continue to spread rumors about the ritualistic murders would be arrested “regardless of the medium they are using.” Another 11 people were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the killings that sparked the riots to begin with.

“We are appealing to the members of the public not to believe any statement they see on social media which is not confirmed by the police,” she said.

Photo credit: SALIM DAWOOD/AFP/Getty Images

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola