Zambia’s main opposition leader, Hakainde Hichilema, has criticised the government over Saturday’s deportation of prominent lawyer Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba.
Lumumba, director of the Kenya School of Law, was due to give a talk on Africa-China relations on Saturday night but he was not allowed to alight from the plane as authorities ordered his return to Nairobi immediately.
Zambia’s chief government spokeswoman Dora Siliya later tweeted that Lumumba was not allowed entry into Zambia “due to security considerations.”
Hichilema said that Lumumba’s deportation would taint the country’s image.
The lawyer is a popular public speaker who is known for his pan-African views. The news of his deportation was covered by Kenya’s press.
His deportation is being seen as an attempt by Zambia’s authorities to stifle any negative discussion around its friendship with China amidst allegations that the government has accumulated a lot of debt by borrowing from the Asian economic giant.
Recently, the government rejected reports that it used some key public assets – such as the national broadcaster, the state-owned power company, Zesco, and the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport – as collateral for the loans.
China denied these allegations as well.
The deportation of Lumumba follows similar actions in recent months against South African opposition leader Mmusi Maimane and South African entertainer Rebecca Libram, popularly known as Zodwa Wabantu.
In August, Zimbabwean opposition figure Tendai Biti was arrested and handed back to authorities in that country after a failed attempt to seek asylum in Zambia.