Law News
Falana seeks stop to Zambian anti-graft boss’ harassment

Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has petitioned the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Banjul, The Gambia, over the harassment of the Zambian Director of Public Prosecutions, Mutembo Nchito, who is said to be currently in unlawful detention because of his successful anti-corruption campaigns.

The petition was addressed to the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders in the ACHPR, Madame Reine Alapini-Gansou.

Nchito was said to have prosecuted many cases of high profile corruption and had indicted two former Presidents of the country.

The anti-corruption boss was also said to be in the middle of prosecuting a former President of Zambia, Mr. Rupiah Banda, for money laundering involving the proceeds of 20,000 barrels of oil supplied to the country by the Nigerian government under the leadership of the late President Umar Yar’ Adua.

But with the election of a new Zambian President, Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, in January 2015, Banda was said to have switched his support from his own party to the new President’s party with the bargain that his cases in court would be stopped.

Falana said the action of the Zambian government was reminiscence of similar harassment of anti-corruption czars in Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Kenya who were hounded out of office when corruption decided to fight back.

Falana said in his petition, “I am writing to express serious concerns about the unlawful detention of Mutembo Nchito and his continuing harassment and intimidation through politically-motivated charges levied solely because of his anti-corruption and human rights work as the country’s Director of Public Prosecutions, and to urge you to use your position to urgently intervene in this matter to restore his human rights and to prevail on the government of the Zambia to immediately end further attacks, unlawful arrest, harassment and intimidation of a prominent anti-corruption campaigner and human rights defender.

“As Director of Public Prosecutions, Mutembo Nchito has discharged his mandate with a reasonable measure of success. Since 2002, he has prosecuted many cases of high profile corruption that have seen him indict two former Presidents, a chief of intelligence, a Zambia Army Commander, a Zambia Air Force Commander and a commander of another defence force called Zambia National Service.

“He also prosecuted a former Minister of Finance and his permanent secretaries for corruption and abuse of office among many other high profile individuals. His excellent achievements as anti-corruption defenders with high conviction rates have expectedly earned him very powerful enemies within the political system.

“At the time of the death of Zambia’s fifth President, Michael Sata, in October 2014, he was in the middle of prosecuting former President Rupiah Banda for abuse of office by Banda’s personalising of the proceeds of a government contract which, in concert with his family, he banked in Singapore.

“This case has reached an advanced stage as he has closed the state’s case and it is now for the court to determine whether the President has a case to answer.

“However, following the election of Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu as President on 20 January 2015, former President Rupiah Banda switched his support from his own party to Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s ruling party, who publicly acknowledged financially benefiting from Mr. Banda for his campaigns.

“Before the election, “The Post” a leading Zambian newspaper published an article that claimed that the quid pro quo for Banda’s support for Lungu was that his cases in court would be stopped.

“Citing sources who were allegedly close to the discussions The Post disclosed that Banda and Lungu agreed that a way should be found to remove Mutembo Nchito from the office of Director of Public Prosecutions to make their work easier. Once this scheme was publicly exposed it appeared that new approaches had to be found.

“On Thursday, 5 February, Mutembo Nchito’s elder brother Mr. Nchima Nchito with whom he practiced law before becoming DPP was called by his former Law School classmate, who also happened to be one of President Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s campaign managers. His name is: Mr. Kelvin Fube Bwalya.

“When Mutembo Nchito’s brother went for the meeting, Mr Bwalya informed him that he had a message for me Mutembo Nchito from the President. The message was to the effect that the President wanted Mutembo Nchito to resign or face an acrimonious removal process. Mutembo Nchito’s brother wondered why the President was using a private individual to deal with the removal of the DPP. He wondered why the President could not call him. He was told that the President did not want to speak to him.”

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