Police in Zambia have arrested hundreds of people after a wave of anti-foreigner violence in which at least two people were killed.The rioting has been linked to ritual killings.
Zambian police have detained 262 people for allegedly attacking Rwandan nationals and looting their shops in the capital Lusaka. Two people died in the rioting.
Home Affairs Minister Davies Mwila told pariament the two fatalities had been identified as Zambians who died "in the confusion" as riots tore through the shantytowns. The victims were burned with firewood and vehicle tyres, according to police.
Charity Munganga Chanda, spokesperson for the Zambia Police Service, told DW that the 262 who had been apprehended would appear in court on Friday (22.04.2016). The police wanted to set an example for looters "because it is an offence to break into someone's shop and steal," she said.
More than 60 shops were looted, the police said. The looters made off with food, drinks, refrigerators and other electrical appliances.
In Ngombe township, one of the capital's densely populated areas, Rwandan shopkeeper Gift Mwanza told DW on Thursday that the free and easy atmosphere had been replaced by fear. Most people were now indoors by late afternoon and his business was suffering.
"We are not opening sometimes, sometimes we open and we close early at 1700 hours. Sometimes we don't open the whole day. We are scared," he said.
Another Rwandan shopkeeper, Sarah Maido, told DW of her fear of looters. "You are looking here and there and thinking the people will come and take all the things away. If they come and attack you, there's nothing you can do," she said.
On Tuesday morning, an AFP reporter witnessed hundreds of Lusaka residents stoning shops and houses owned by foreign nationals.
Zambia, which has an estimated population of 16 million, has a tiny Rwandan migrant community of 6,500, most of whom came to the country after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Many are shopkeepers and are often better off than Zambians, which can be a source of friction.
Link to killings
Mwila blamed the riots on false allegations that a suspected ritual killer of foreign nationality had been released from police custody.
Ritual killings in Zambia started in March. Several of the victims, mostly men, were found with body parts missing.
The body parts are believed to have been taken for use in rituals aimed at obtaining wealth or power.
Police confirmed that at least seven people had been ritually murdered and that about 11 suspects had been arrested in connection with the deaths.
"We are still investigating the case," Chanda said.
Oppostion leader Hakainde Hichilema appealed for calm. The newly formed leftist Rainbow Party attributed the violence to poverty and discontent with President Edgar Lungu's government.
Anti-foreigner sentiment against Africans from other parts of the continent erupted in South Africa last year. Mobs in Johannesburg and in the port city of Durban targeted migrants, ransacking their homes and burning shops. At least seven people died and thousands were displaced, with citizens from Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique among those affected.
Kathy Sikombe in Lusaka contributed to this report