On September 29, 2018, Zambian officials refused entry to Patrick Lumumba, a Kenyan professor of law at Kabarak University, in an apparent attempt to prevent him from delivering a lecture on China-African relations at Eden University. He was later deported back to Kenya.
Zambia’s Information and Broadcasting Minister, Dora Siliya, announced via Twitter that Lumumba had been denied entry on security grounds, without providing further details.
Sources indicate that Lumumba’s scheduled lecture was on the topic, “Africa in the age of China Influence and global geo-dynamics.” Zambia’s current government has relied heavily on Chinese loans to finance spending and has awarded lucrative contracts for public infrastructure projects to Chinese firms. This has reportedly produced anger among some segments of the Zambian public and has formed a focal point for political attacks for opponents of the ruling Patriotic Front party.
Kenyan media sources suggest that the Zambian government may have barred Lumumba entry due to the reportedly politically sensitive nature of his planned lecture. Asked during a press briefing about the decision to deny Lumumba entry, Siliya reportedly commented “if a person has a record of being inflammatory, disrespectful, plagiarism and wanting to shout corruption against others on top of their voice, it’s within the Ministers discretion to make the judgment as to allow them into the nation or not.”
Scholars at Risk is concerned about restrictions on an academic’s travel, apparently to restrict the nonviolent exercise of the rights to academic freedom and freedom of expression — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Zambia is a party. State authorities have a responsibility to protect academic freedom and not to interfere with academic activity, so long as it is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, travel restrictions intended to impede academic activity have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.