Zambia's opposition on Saturday accused police of opening fire during a rally, causing the party's leader to fear for his safety as political tensions rattle the country.
Police denied using live ammunition to disperse the crowd at the event on Friday in Sesheke, a small town on the border with Namibia, approximately 500 kilometres (300 miles) west of the capital Lusaka.
United Party for National Development leader Hakainde Hichilema, who was detained in 2017 on treason charges that critics said were politically motivated, was addressing his supporters ahead of a parliamentary by-election in the area slated for next week.
‘Our lives are in danger as police are discharging live ammunition at us and our people,’ Hichilema said on Twitter late Friday, urging people to ‘remain calm’.
The party said no one was injured.
‘We are temporarily safe and the president is in hiding but we don't know what will happen to us,’ Brian Mwiinga, the deputy press secretary told AFP.
Later, Mwiinga said in a Facebook post that the party's convoy had been threatened by ‘heavily armed’ police as it passed back through Sesheke on Saturday.
Inspector general of police Kakoma Kanganja denied real bullets were used at Friday's rally.
‘The Zambia police wishes to state that no live ammunition was fired by our officers that were dispersing the unruly crowd in Sesheke yesterday. We also wish to further clarify that no life was lost yesterday as a result of the fracas,’ Kanganja said in a statement.
Zambian President Edgar Lungu has been accused of cracking down on dissent since winning a disputed election in 2016.
Hichilema has repeatedly challenged the result of the 2016 election and accused the government of intimidating critics.
He was detained in April 2017 over an incident in which he allegedly failed to give way to Lungu's motorcade. He was released in August that year.
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