Zambia xenophobic riots: Two burned alive in Lusaka

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People use a pole to batter a shop doorway during clashes with police in Lusaka April 19, 2016Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Shops have been broken into and looted

Two people were burned to death on Monday during xenophobic violence in Zambia's capital, Lusaka, police have said in a statement.

The riots started after rumours that Rwandans were behind recent ritual killings in the city.

The two were Zambian nationals killed "in the confusion" Home Affairs Minister Davies Mwila reportedly said.

More than 250 people have been arrested after more than 60 Rwandan-owned shops were looted in two days of violence.

The two Zambians had been burned with firewood and vehicle tyres, according to police quoted by the AFP news agency.

Six people have been murdered since March and their body parts removed.

Rumours circulated that the body parts would be used as charms to ensure success in business.

Police spokeswoman Charity Munganga urged Zambians not to believe "false rumours".

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

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The police said the rumours were being used to justify criminality

She warned that it was an offence to spread rumours that caused alarm and the police would not hesitate to arrest those doing so "regardless of the medium they are using".

"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."

Rwandans are the largest group of immigrants in Zambia, owning shops in the densely populated areas which have been affected by the riots.

Why are 6,000 Rwandans living in Zambia?

BBC Great Lakes service analysis:

In the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, two million ethnic Hutus fled as the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels captured the capital Kigali in July, ending 100 days of ethnic killings. Some 800,000 people had been slaughtered by Hutu extremists.

Many of those who left settled in camps set up across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But others continued walking - some across the vast country into Angola, before settling in neighbouring Zambia, in the Meheba refugee camp in north-west of the country where many stayed for nearly two decades.

In July 2013, the UN said it was safe for Rwandans across Africa to go back home, and revoked their refugee status, encouraging voluntary repatriation.

Despite diplomatic efforts and assurances, about 4,000 Rwandans in Zambia do not want to go back - and are trying to get Zambian citizenship.

In the last five years, they have been joined by several hundred Rwandans who say Zambia is more conducive for business, as taxes are not as high as at home.

The BBC's Meluse Kapatamoyo in Lusaka says the riots began in two poor neighbourhoods on Monday and spread to other areas on Tuesday.

Young men ransacked shops, possibly reflecting growing frustration at the high levels of unemployment and the rising cost of living, our correspondent says.

Riot police had to be deployed and many Rwandans fled to police stations to take shelter.

Image caption,
The unrest is said to have been fuelled by high unemployment among youth
Image source, AFP
Image caption,
More than 250 people have been arrested to curb the violence

Ms Munganga said police officers were still deployed to all areas. No rioting has been reported on Wednesday.

The violence shocked many Zambians, who say they cannot recall such hostility towards foreigners, our reporter says.

Ritual killings are also rare in in the southern African nation, she says.

The home affairs minister said on Tuesday, after visiting areas hit by the riots, that 11 people had been detained on suspicion of being involved in ritual killings.

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